Warning: Graphic elements of this story may be disturbing to readers
A longtime Vernon hockey coach will have to wait to hear his sentence for one count of sexual assault that he committed almost 20 years ago.
Keith Chase, 55, is a well-known Vernon businessman who owns Chasers Bottle Depot. He was also the head coach for a number of teams with Greater Vernon Minor Hockey as well as assistant coach for the Vernon Lakers (now the Vernon Vipers) in the 1990s. He also coached ringette and baseball.
This past March, Chase was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl who was a hockey player for one of the teams he coached and a family friend. The teen was sleeping over at Chase’s house prior to a game between January and March of 2004. The victim’s name is withheld under a publication ban to protect her identity.
Chase was 36 years old at the time of the offence, and as Justice Gary Weatherill heard at the Vernon courthouse Friday, he was drinking heavily at that stage in his life.
Crown prosecutor Miho Ogi-Harris sought a sentence of two to four years in jail, while also requesting a DNA order, a 10-year firearms ban and for Chase to be put on the sex offender registry.
“The offence against the victim clearly profoundly violated her personal autonomy, her dignity and physical and sexual integrity,” Ogi-Harris said.
“She was a guest in his home and she was vulnerable, not only as a child in his care but as a guest.”
The Crown noted that Chase was in a position of trust over the victim, adding that Chase asked her not to tell anybody about what happened.
Defence lawyer Nicholas Jacob called for Chase to be sentenced to two years of house arrest. If the judge should disagree on making a conditional sentence, he argued that nine months in jail followed by probation was reasonable.
Jacob said the court proceedings have recieved much media attention and have had a significant impact on Chase’s family, which would be impacted even more severely if he was sentenced to jail time.
“Incarceration, if ordered, will have an impact on his family as Mr. Chase is essentially the breadwinner and earns a reasonably significant income from his business,” the defence lawyer said.
Jacob said that while no psychiatric report was ordered in this case, “the court can infer that (Chase) is a low risk of reoffending, taking into account the fact that he’s lived in the same community for his whole life … he no longer struggles with alcohol, and there’s been no allegation of offending in the approximately 20 years since this incident.”
Jacob read out a series of letters by members of the community which described Chase as a “family man,” a role model for those he coached and someone with a good character.
“The good character … didn’t prevent this offence from happening,” Ogi-Harris countered. “It can go both ways. A person of good character can be seen to facilitate the offence in that it affords access to victims and promotes a silence of these crimes.”
Chase sat next to his wife and son in court, with the victim also in the room. He declined Justice Weatherill’s invitation to comment at the end of the hearing.
At the hearing’s conclusion, Justice Weatherill said he needed more time to review the case and submissions, and put the case over to Oct. 3 to fix a date for his decision.