The sentencing hearing for the former Canada Soccer and Vancouver Whitecaps women’s coach who pleaded guilty to four sex offences involving former players, will continue in September, a provincial court judge has confirmed.
Lawyers for the defence and Crown appeared before a judge at B.C. Provincial Court in North Vancouver on Tuesday to fix a date for the continuation of Birarda’s sentencing hearing, which began last week. It will now continue Sept. 2, the lawyer and judge agreed.
In the first day of the sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Linda Ostry detailed the statement of facts the defence agreed to as part of Birarda pleading guilty to four of the 10 charges he originally faced. She asked judge Deanna Gaffar to sentence Birarda to two years less a day of imprisonment, plus three years’ probation.
The defence has yet to present their sentencing request.
Birarda pleaded guilty in February to three charges of sexual assault and one charge of sexual touching against four women from 1989 to 2008. All were teenagers at the time of the offences, playing for soccer teams where Birarda was serving on the coaching staff.
According to the agreed statement of facts, in all four cases Birarda would befriend his victims, offering them tips and guidance as players, but would pursue closer relationships over time. He would ask them about their school and their boyfriends and what they did with their time.
All four victims considered Birarda to be a prominent and important coach and felt trapped by his advances. He was 21 at the beginning of the time frame covered by first offence, 39 at the beginning of the time frame of the fourth offence.
Eventually he would tell them he loved them and spoke in more explicit sexual terms, both in person and on the phone.
All four women said they found it very difficult to make him stop his behaviour, which progressed to him kissing them and initiating sexual contact, including intercourse in one case.
“You didn’t have a chance to tell him to screw off because that would have an impact on your career,” Ostry said one of the victims told investigators.
Another victim told investigators she was “stuck with the residue of having had these encounters.”
Birarda was dismissed from his positions with Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps in 2008 after complaints from players on both teams, but he was not banned from coaching and continued to coach youth players until early 2019, when the allegations of impropriety were made publicly by women who played on the Canadian U20 team while he was still coaching a decade before.
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