Former WHL coach convicted of sexually assaulting player asks for more time to file an appeal

Kayle Neis/Leader-Post. Former WHL coach Bernie Lynch, seen here before he was sentenced to three years in prison, is now attempting to appeal his conviction for the 1988 sexual assault of a 17-year-old hockey player.

Brandon Harder, Regina Leader-Post

Bernie Lynch, a former junior hockey coach found guilty of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old player in 1988, has asked for additional time to appeal his conviction.

The 69-year-old did not file his notice of appeal before the generally held deadline of 30 days from the conclusion of the matter. He was sentenced to three years in prison on Jan. 19, which followed his conviction in December of 2023.

In support of an application for a time extension, he filed an affidavit stating his parole officer faxed his appeal paperwork to the wrong number on Feb. 8.

He’s also filed a draft notice of appeal, received by the court Mar. 7, that briefly outlines the grounds from which he intends to argue, if he’s given the chance.

It contends the judge made a legal error by “providing uneven scrutiny to the evidence of the complainant and the accused.”

The Crown case against Lynch relied heavily on the testimony of the complainant, with little other evidence presented.

The complainant cannot be named, in keeping with a court-ordered publication ban. He told court that he’d made his first significant solo trip to Regina at age 17 to participate in a Regina Pats hockey school, with hopes of being picked up by the team. However, he testified that his view of the club, and ultimately his life, changed after Lynch, then a newly-minted assistant coach with the team, assaulted him physically and sexually.

The trial focused largely on the details surrounding the sexual assault charge. The complainant told court it was arranged that he would stay overnight at Lynch’s apartment when he arrived in the city on Aug. 7, 1988 and it was there the coach pressured him to drink beer, told him to remove his clothes and walk out onto the balcony, suggested watching an adult film, and ultimately sexually assaulted him in the shower where he was attempting to sober himself up.

Relating to the physical assault charge, the complainant said the following day Lynch punched him in the arm and struck him in the testicles with a ring of keys.

Lynch flatly denied all of this, telling court he was actually in Calgary on the dates in question.

Court of King’s Bench Peter Bergbusch didn’t buy Lynch’s account. While evidence confirmed Lynch was coaching in Calgary later in August 1988, the judge did not believe he was there at the relevant time.

He wrote the complainant “has no motive to fabricate his account” and found virtually all of the complainant’s testimony as fact.

“I do not believe Mr. Lynch’s evidence and, when I consider his testimony with the other evidence, I am not left with a reasonable doubt,” he wrote in his trial decision.

Lynch’s draft notice of appeal goes on to contend that the judge “misapprehended the evidence,” but provides no further detail to accompany the assertion, which is not abnormal at this stage in the appeal process.

One of the documents filed by Lynch suggests that he’s currently without a lawyer, but is seeking a lawyer’s help with his appeal.

A chambers judge is scheduled to hear his application for a time extension later this month.