WARNING: This story contains graphic details and may affect people who have experienced sexual abuse or know someone who has.
Bob Birarda stood up and apologized before bursting into tears during day two of his sentencing hearing in North Vancouver Provincial Court.
“I’m really sorry to all of you for the pain, grief and trauma I caused you,” he said in a trembling voice.
“I am here today to take responsibility for my actions and the impact I have had on you… There is no excuse or justification for my behavior and I am not offering one,” he said.
Birarda addressed each victim individually. Their names are protected by a publication ban.
The former head coach of both the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team and Canada’s under-20s women’s soccer team pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual assault and one assault on a youth for sexual purposes in February.
The violations took place between 1998 and 2008 and involve four former players who were teenagers when he coached them.
Birarda will definitely be in jail for a while. Defense counsel is demanding a prison sentence of eight months followed by four months of house arrest. Crown served a sentence of two years less per day, plus an additional three years on probation.
In his defense, attorney William Smart told the court that Birarda was in his early twenties and volunteered to be an assistant coach when he committed the first two offenses in 1988 and 1990, respectively. Smart said as a relatively young man, Birarda “didn’t understand the power imbalance.” between a coach and a player.
From 2006-2008, the period related to the single count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose, Smart painted a picture of a mentally unwell man who “lost touch with reality.”
“The defense does not dispute that Mr Birarda was in a position of confidence,” Smart said. “He’s an inherently insecure person who was overwhelmed with life at the time.”
Earlier, Judge Deanne Gaffar had heard that Birarda had sent the victim a torrent of messages at the time telling her he loved her, that he “got off” while looking at her photo and that he had started a countdown to her 18th birthday. birthday – which he called “Ecstasy Day” – when it would be legal to have sex with her.
Smart said his client was now “deeply embarrassed” by his behavior, describing the sexual touching that occurred — kissing the player, stroking her neck, giving her an unwanted hug — as offensive but insignificant.
Birarda was quietly fired by Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps in October 2008 for incidents and text messages involving several players. A few months later, he began coaching girls’ soccer in suburban Vancouver.
Smart court read excerpts from a number of letters written by female players Birarda coached in the decade after leaving team Canada and the Whitecaps.
Allen described Birarda as a positive influence on their lives. Smart said the letters were proof that he had a low risk of committing again.
According to Smart, Birarda, 55 years ago, has suffered embarrassment and humiliation because of the intense media and social media coverage of the case, and may have to serve his prison sentence in protective custody.
“Mr. Birarda will carry the stigma for the rest of his life,” Smart said.
A sentencing decision will be announced in the future.
Support is available to anyone who has been sexually abused. This gives you access to crisis lines and local support services Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada Database. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, call 112.