Crown prosecutors in Manitoba are appealing the two-year sentence handed to disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James for sexually assaulting ex-NHLer Theoren Fleury and onetime junior player Todd Holt.

Manitoba justice officials announced Thursday that an appeal has been filed in James's case, saying the judge made errors in her sentence.

Provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson sentenced James on March 20 to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Fleury and Holt while coaching them in the junior hockey ranks during the 1980s and early '90s.

The sentence consists of two years on each offence to be served concurrently. James was most recently reported to be at Stony Mountain Institution near Winnipeg.

The Crown had sought a six-year sentence for James, while his lawyers had wanted a conditional sentence of 12 to 18 months with no jail time.

In the Crown's notice of appeal, prosecutors say Carlson "erred in the approach taken in sentencing" James, in part by "over-emphasizing the significance of prior sentences for similar offences."

'Outrage by society'

James previously served time behind bars for sexually assaulting ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and two other young players. He was sentenced to 3½ years for those charges, and served 18 months before being released.

 

Kennedy, who went to Winnipeg to see James's sentencing on the latest charges, told CBC News he is pleased with the Crown's decision to appeal.

"What was a positive was the outrage by society when it came to this case," he said. "It shows that we've come a long ways in how we view this heinous crime."

Kennedy said he believes James should be sentenced to six years in prison, which is what the Crown had requested.

Charges involving a third complainant, Greg Gilhooly, were stayed as a condition of James pleading guilty to sexually assaulting Fleury and Holt.

Gilhooly said the Crown is correct to appeal the sentence because he believes Carlson got it wrong.

"This isn't a lynch mob going after Graham, but a common-sensical approach by society as a whole to say that things like this are no longer acceptable," he said.

Gilhooly, a lawyer, added that there is no guarantee that the appeal will change the sentence.