A total of six St. Michael’s College School students have been arrested and charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
Five of the youths turned themselves into police and one was arrested on his way to school on November 19. The charges relate to the sexual assault that police learned about on November 14 and believe happened this school year.
Deputy Chief Jim Ramer said the interests of the victims and the criminal allegations that have surfaced are the primary focus of the investigation.
He thanked the officers and investigators who have stayed focused on the evidence and have acted in the best interest of the victims.
“This is going to be a long and complex investigation and we will continue to follow the evidence and lay additional charges if appropriate,” said Ramer, at a news conference at Toronto Police headquarters on November 19.
The six young persons were held pending a show and cause hearing and are scheduled to appear in court today.
On November 12, St. Michael’s College School Principal Gregory Reeves called 13 Division seeking advice about a hazing incident he had learned about.
He was advised on how the student could engage police services, and no further action was taken.
Two days later, Toronto Police Corporate Communications received information from the media that there were a number of expulsions at the school that were believed to be related to an unrelated occurrence at 13 Division.
“As a result, an officer from 13 Division was detailed to the school to investigate,” said Insp. Domenic Sinopoli. “Prior to arriving, Corporate Communications received more information from the media that the expulsions were related to a boy being sexually assaulted with an object.
“After speaking with the Principal, he confirmed the expulsions were not in response to the unrelated occurrence but a video that showed the sexual assault. He also shared information in relation to another incident. This incident and the one originally discussed on November 12 are being investigated as assaults,” he said.
On November 15, the Principal notified police of another sexual assault that had occurred prior to the ones already being investigated and a fourth occurrence was launched.
Sinopoli said the investigation surrounding the incident police first learned about on November 12 and the second sexual assault are being investigated.
“More than 50 witnesses have been identified and more information comes into us on a daily basis,” he said. “We also know there are several videos being circulated. We are in possession of these videos. We have reason to believe that there may be more incidents and potentially more videos. We are very concerned about the distribution of the videos on social media. The unintended consequences are far-reaching and detrimental to the recovery of the victim. I cannot stress to you the importance of ensuring that these videos are immediately deleted from all phones or devices in your possession.”
Failure to do so, said Sinopoli, and or the continued distribution or publishing of these videos will be treated very seriously.
“Let me make it perfectly clear that this caution applies to all persons and or organizations that are currently in possession of the videos,” he noted.
Sinopoli added that police have also received unconfirmed reports that boys from the school are being targeted on social media and in public.
“We want to re-iterate that we are monitoring social media and will act on any reports of reprisal or retaliation,” he said. “We know this has been a very strenuous time for the students, faculty and families of St. Mike’s, exacerbated by unprecedented media interest. We know tensions have been high. While no criminal behavior has been reported, we would like to encourage everyone, including parents and media to pause and remember we are dealing with children, certainly not all of whom have been involved in the crimes being investigated.”
Sinopoli also addressed concerns raised about the delay in reporting the sexual assault.
He said the law puts a duty on anyone, particularly professionals working with children, to report to a society instances where a child may be in need of protection.
“I appreciate that this is of concern to the parents of the students of St. Mike’s College and to the community at large,” he said. “I can assure you that we are working in co-operation with the Principal and his staff. However, we are not prepared to comment on this aspect of the investigation until a thorough investigation is completed.”