Did Superior Court Judge interfere with St. Michael’s College School sex assault investigation to protect his football coach son?
- Legal experts say an Ontario Superior Court Justice should not have involved himself in the ongoing sex-assault investigation at St. Michael’s College School.
- Judge’s son is a teacher & football coach of students charged with gang sexual assault & making / distributing child porn video of the attack.
- Two sources say that in November 2018, Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy attended St. Michael’s College School meetings during the sexual assault investigation where he called for the firing of principal Greg Reeves and school president Father Jefferson Thompson. The two school officials subsequently resigned on Thursday, November 22, 2018.
- A source states that one of the meetings was ‘open’, but the other was a small private meeting that included various school board members, respected senior alumni and advisors who discussed with Justice Shaughnessy options in handling the scandal.
- Justice Shaughnessy’s son Kevin Shaughnessy is a ten-year teacher at the school and was one of the teachers / coaches of the now-dismantled football team whose students were videoed in the school locker room (allegedly) sexually assaulting a boy with a broom handle.
- Justice Shaughnessy is a St. Michael’s College School alumnus (1968) who has remained heavily involved in school affairs including law classes and mock trials. He founded and donated two longstanding student awards. His three sons also graduated from the school where one, Kevin, is employed as a teacher.
- In May 2018 Justice Shaughnessy appeared in a promotional video for the school, associated with his receiving the ‘Order of St. Michael’. The video makes revelations about his involvement with other organizations, some of which are also involved with the courts and law enforcement in Durham Region where the judge sits on the bench – raising further questions about potential and/or perceived conflicts of interest.
- Did Justice Shaughnessy have any contact whatsoever with law enforcement personnel concerning the St. Michael’s College School matter?
- In an unrelated civil case, there are four known improper police involvements associated with Justice Shaughnessy. This raises strong suspicions of Shaughnessy’s improper use of, and relationship with, law enforcement. In 2017 Durham Regional Police launched major investigation into Donald Best immediately after Best’s lawyer filed legal documents about Justice Shaughnessy’s misconduct in a civil case. In 2009, a Durham Regional Police officer assigned to Justice Shaughnessy’s courthouse improperly conducted a secret investigation into Donald Best “in aid of the court”.
- Justice Shaughnessy is already embroiled in separate litigation concerning his corrupt behaviour in a matter outside the St. Michael’s investigation. In the Donald Best civil case, Justice Shaughnessy – in a backroom after court closed – secretly and illegally doubled Best’s prison time for Contempt of Court without informing Best or placing any record of the judge’s secret order into the court record. Only the prison was notified of the increased sentence.
- In the same Donald Best civil matter Justice Shaughnessy also backdated a court order by ten days to assist the opposing lawyers – and then convicted and imprisoned Donald Best for failing to deliver business records to opposing lawyers two days before Shaughnessy made and signed the backdated order that required Best to present the business records. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
- Several senior lawyers and a retired Crown Attorney call Justice Shaughnessy’s behaviour in the Donald Best civil case “despotic”, “disgusting”, “reprehensible”, “malicious” and “worthy of his removal from the bench.” His corrupt actions earned Bryan Shaughnessy the monikers ‘Backroom Bryan’ and ‘Canada’s Backroom Judge’ with both the public and (quietly) in the legal community.
How Involved is Teacher & Football Coach Kevin Shaughnessy?
The scandal at St. Michael’s College School exploded in November 2018 and is only partially about the horrific behaviour of some members of the school’s football team who (allegedly) sexually assaulted a fellow student with a broomstick, videoed the attack and then distributed the child pornography.
Seven students now stand criminally charged involving multiple incidents on school property over a number of months.
In a breach of professional ethics and perhaps even the criminal code, for at least two days senior school administrators (and probably some teachers, board members and parents) failed to report the horrific sex attack and existence of the child-sex video to the police or Children’s Aid. Some possessed copies of the child-sex video during this time and distributed it to others.
It was not until the police were notified by the news media and came to the school that principal Greg Reeves surrendered the video to the police and informed them of the sexual attack – some two days after he knew and first possessed the child-sex video.
Why did so many senior members of the St. Michael’s College School community fail to report the existence of the child-sex video and horrific sex-attack to the police?
Were the school staff and board members honestly just overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with such events? Were they naïve about their duty to protect a child at risk?
Or… was it an attempted cover-up? Were the staff and board trying to find some way out to protect the international reputation of the school? Did the worldwide revelations about child sexual abuse and coverups by the Catholic Church and clergy influence the St. Michael’s College School individual and corporate decisions?
What did Justice Shaughnessy know and when did he know it?
It would be only natural for Justice Bryan Shaughnessy and his son Kevin Shaughnessy to discuss the sexual assaults the moment either of them learned of the events.
As a ten-year St. Michael’s teacher and football coach, Kevin Shaughnessy might have been worried about the school image and about his own career. He would naturally inform and ask advice of his father who is both a senior justice in the Ontario Superior Court and a respected member of the St. Michael’s College School community.
“(There should be) a full accounting of coaches, clergy and staff members assigned to sports teams. Where were they when that kid was screaming for help?”Toronto Sun journalist Joe Warmington November 23, 2018
Both Justice Shaughnessy and his son Kevin would have known that public questions were bound to be asked about the school’s athletic and football team culture, why the assault was not prevented and when each staff member became aware of the assaults and videos. The public and parents would also want to know if anyone had knowledge of this type of behaviour happening in the past and what the response of the school was at the time. (Note: At least one former student has gone public claiming that hazing and assaults at the school have been part of the school culture for decades.)
Justice Shaughnessy should have recused himself from any involvement whatsoever.
In this situation, it would be a natural instinct for senior school officials, staff, board members and parents to contact Justice Shaughnessy for advice – perhaps not even considering that contacting a senior judge during a criminal investigation was improper.
Bryan Shaughnessy, however, is no ordinary person, no ordinary alumnus or parent – ‘Bryan’ is Ontario Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy whose public and private statements on anything carry real influence and the heavy credibility of a senior judge.
Further, Justice Shaughnessy’s son Kevin is a teacher and football coach and therefore directly involved at the very least as a witness – and potentially as the subject of investigations into the school’s staff and football culture.
“It was up to Justice Shaughnessy to recuse himself from the picture, but instead he deliberately chose to become involved.
Upon learning of the sexual assault at the school, as a sitting Ontario Superior Court Justice who is the father of an involved teacher and football coach, Bryan Shaughnessy should have immediately recused himself from any discussion, communication or any role at all in the school.
Further, he had a duty imposed by law to report any incidents himself unless he was absolutely sure they had already been properly reported.” (Senior Law Society of Ontario lawyer to Donald Best.)
There are recognized limitations on what a judge may or may not do both officially and in private life. According to several senior lawyers and a law professor I consulted with during the writing of this article, Justice Shaughnessy crossed the line when he made recommendations to the school in the middle of a criminal investigation – whether he made those recommendations in public at the general meeting or in private with school officials.
As a senior Ontario Superior Court Justice, Bryan Shaughnessy should not have involved himself in any way in a criminal matter likely to go before the courts.
According to the senior lawyers, Justice Shaughnessy’s actions during the criminal investigation crossed the line even before considering the obvious conflict of interest created by his son’s employment as a teacher and involved football coach at the school.
Parents, staff and members of the public would naturally wonder if Justice Shaughnessy’s recommendation that St. Michael’s College School fire principal Greg Reeves and president Father Jefferson Thompson was intended to take the heat away from Shaughnessy’s son and his son’s fellow teachers and football coaches.
Too many unanswered questions.
Did Justice Shaughnessy’s teacher-son have a copy of the video or know of it and not report it to the police? Did anything that Kevin Shaughnessy do or failed to do influence his father to call for the firing of the school principal and director?
Exactly when and how did Justice Shaughnessy learn of the sexual assaults and of the existence of the video? Did he immediately call the police to report the crime himself? Did Justice Shaughnessy see or possess a copy of the child-sex video?
When sitting judges insert themselves or allow themselves to be inserted into criminal investigations – at the very least this causes public doubt about the judiciary and the rule of law. At worst, such actions bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Add to that the fact that Justice Shaughnessy’s own son is at the very best a potential witness and at the worst an involved teacher and football coach.
Justice Shaughnessy made a deliberate choice to insert himself into an ongoing criminal investigation despite his obvious conflicts of interest.
He knew or should have known that his involvement had the potential to cause doubt about the integrity of both the internal and police investigation and to bring both his personal judgment and the administration of justice into disrepute.
Yet, Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy chose to become involved in the St. Michael’s College School scandal.
Coming in Part II…
- Update on the St. Michael’s College School criminal charges, including known timeline.
- Analysis of the Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy promotional video for St. Michael’s College School.
- Discussion of what public activities are permissible for sitting judges. Is fundraising for organizations permitted? What if the organizations have an acknowledged role with the police or the courts in the judge’s jurisdiction?
- Details of all police involvement associated with Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy in the Donald Best civil case.
CBC Toronto, Nov 22/18 St. Michael’s College School principal and president resign amid student sex assault scandal
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Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Donald Best is a former Toronto Police Sergeant (Detective) who is now an independent journalist, documentary filmmaker and an anti-corruption advocate. He is the recipient of the 2018 Ontario Civil Liberties Award, and has been called “One of Canada’s most methodical and well documented whistleblowers.”