Bertrand Charest weeps at sentencing hearing but does not admit to sex crimes

Former national ski coach Bertrand Charest spoke for the first time since he was charged and convicted of multiple sexual crimes against girls he coached in the 1990s, saying he was "profoundly sorry" but not calling those he assaulted victims.

Defence says 12-year sentence sought by Crown is too harsh for sexual assault, exploitation of teenage skiers

Bertrand Charest was found guilty last June of 37 charges, including sexual assault and sexual exploitation, for the abuse of athletes that he coached throughout the 1990s. (Radio-Canada)

Former national ski coach Bertrand Charest has spoken for the first time since he was charged and convicted of multiple sexual crimes against girls he coached in the 1990s.

Charest was convicted in June of 37 charges including sexual assault and sexual exploitation involving nine victims, all girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 19 who he coached.

Charest asked to address the court for the first time in his trial, just as Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lépine was about to adjourn, following the end of sentencing arguments. 

He wept as he read a letter addressed to his victims, who he acknowledged by name, but did not refer to as victims.

Charest said he was "profoundly sorry" for any pain he had caused them.

"I am very pained to have made you live through this trial that I would have liked for you to avoid," he said.

He also said he loved two of his victims.

"At 25, I didn't have all of the maturity and the tools to guide you," he said, adding he was "no longer the person at 52 that I was at 25."

The crimes took place between 1991 and 1998, the year Charest turned 33.

Charest also thanked his family for their support and apologized to his children for not being there for them, as he has been detained since his arrest.

Antonio Cabral, Charest's lawyer, is asking for a four- to six-year sentence, saying that the 12 years the Crown is seeking is too harsh, given the fact his client did not have a criminal record before these crimes and has not re-offended since they occurred.

He also suggested his client was less "morally culpable" because the crimes happened in the context of what he described as "amorous" relationships, and that that context should be reflected in sentencing. 

"There has to be a distinction between someone that is walking on the street and gets attacked by a sexual predator, and that rapes that person, and forces that person to have sexual intercourse with them," Cabral told reporters after the hearing. 

The prosecution has argued 12 years in prison is appropriate given the number of victims, their ages and the fact that he got a 15-year-old girl pregnant, leading her to have an abortion.