Guelph high school volleyball referee facing multiple sex assault charges

A man, who was a referee at high school volleyball games in Guelph, is facing 14 sex assault-related charges.

Police say a number of teenage volunteers reported inappropriate sexual conduct at a tournament held at the University of Guelph from May 2 to May 4.

All of the girls were between the ages of 13 and 17.

Police then began an investigation into Hughbee Brown, a 63-year-old from Dashwood, Ont., and found a similar incident had also occurred in March at another volleyball game at a Guelph high school, involving two 17-year-old girls.

"The allegations are, both there was inappropriate sexual physical touching and also comments that were made that were inappropriate and of a sexual nature," said Scott Tracey, with the Guelph Police Service.

Brown was arrested on May 25 and charged with seven counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference and five counts of sexual exploitation.

Police say he has worked as a youth volleyball referee for more than 30 years, and specifically, with the district four, district eight and district 10 high school systems.

In a statement, the Wellington Catholic District School Board said: "WCDSB administration was made aware of the situation by Guelph Police. We have no information to provide at this time. We take matters of student safety and well-being seriously and were very concerned to hear of this situation. All of our secondary school principals, athletic directors and volleyball coaches are aware of the information that police have provided and we have asked them to contact the police and their superintendent with any questions or concerns."

The Upper Grand District School Board also provided the following statement: "Guelph Police have made us aware of this situation. We have no information to provide at this time. UGDSB students did not attend the tournament at the University of Guelph. However, we have sent the police information to all our secondary school principals and have asked them to contact the police and their superintendent if they have any questions or concerns."

CTV News also reached out to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. They said: "[WCDSB] prioritizes the safety and well-being of its students and this case would be no different. We appreciate, value and honour the trust of our parents and students. We are aware of the situation but cannot comment on private personnel matters."

Police also commented on their decision to release Brown's name publicly.

"The investigators feel that there is a possibility there are other people out there who may have had interactions with this individual that they wish to report to police," said Tracey. "That's why we have taken the very unusual - and quite frankly sort of extreme - step of releasing his identity."

Volleyball Canada confirmed that Brown is a member of their associations but will not be allowed to participate in any sanctioned events during the police investigation.

"Although the school-based volleyball programming comes under the jurisdiction of the local school boards, the referee in question is a member of our associations and has completed the requisite training for his role," they said in a statement. "During the police investigation, the referee will not be allowed to participate in any sanctioned events. Once the legal process is complete, an independent third-party mechanism is in place to determine further sanctions and/or future eligibility."

It continues: "The allegations are serious and the youths involved made the correct decision to make their complaint(s) to local police. We encourage participants to report such incidents to the police, or if they are unsure of how to proceed, to contact Canada's Safe Sport Helpline at 1-888-837-7678."

Brown is scheduled to appear in court on June 28.

Police are asking anyone with additional information on these investigations, or any other incident involving Brown, to contact them at 519-824-1212, ext. 7515 or email SVU@guelphpolice.ca. 

-- With reporting by Krista Simpson