A children’s hockey and baseball coach has been found guilty of two counts of voyeurism for photographing young boys in dressing rooms in sports facilities in Surrey and Coquitlam.
Justice Heather MacNaughton convicted Randy William Downes in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster 0n June 14. There is a publication ban on information that could identify the complainants and certain witnesses.
“Children’s athletic coaches are in a position of trust with respect to the children the coach,” the judge noted. “Parents entrust their children to coaches, adults in authority, to enhance their sporting skills. They are entitled to expect that coaches will respect the boundaries that are inherent in those relationships.”
Downes also ran a photography business out of his home, called Action Sports Photography.
The RCMP acting on a search warrant on his home seized electronic devices that contained thousands of photographs of young boys. The judge noted none of the photos were pornographic. Of the images, the Crown relied on 38 photos of two young boys in dressing rooms.
The counts of voyeurism state that in June 2013 and August 2015 Downes “did unlawfully observe or record children under the age of 16 where the children were in a place in which they could reasonably have been expected to be nude.”
MacNaughton said one of the two boys was 13 when he played hockey on a team Downes coached and the other was 12 and played hockey and baseball on teams Downes coached.
“Generally, the photos are of the boys in dressing rooms, changing into or out of their hockey gear or wearing baseball gear,” MacNaughton observed. In many of the photos, she said, the boys are “in the midst” of changing their shirts or pants. “The boys are not naked and their genitals are not exposed in any of the photographs,” she noted.
The court heard from two Canada border guards who inspected Downes’ electronic devices on March 21, 2016 when he was returning to Canada from a trip to Washington State, among other witnesses. Downes himself did not testify.
MacNaughton noted in her reasons for judgment that one of the boys played on a hockey team called The Venom and the other played baseball for the Coquitlam Reds and hockey for the BC Selects. The photos were taken at the Surrey Sports and Leisure Complex, the South Surrey Arena and Planet Ice in Coquitlam.
Both boys, now adults, testified they were not aware that the photos had been taken and consequently did not consent to them.
The judge noted that the fact some of the photos were blurry and others had been cropped after they were taken “suggests that they were not posed but taken hurriedly.”
Derek Doucette, who coached baseball with Downes and is also a hockey coach, testified he was 80 per cent certain that by at least 2015 there was a league rule in place during regular hockey season prohibiting cellphones in dressing rooms.
Its purpose, MacNaughton noted, “was to prevent pictures being taken of children in dressing rooms.”
The judge remarked that photographs “pose a greater threat to privacy and sexual integrity than mere observation” as they “create a permanent visual recording which can be saved, studied at will, further enhanced or cropped with editing software, and shared with others.”
“In many of the photographs,” she noted, “Mr. Downes focused on the boys’ underpants and their bare torsos,” and they were not accidentally taken.