michael ross stratton
By Jeff Mitchell, DurhamRegion.com - Dec 7, 2010
A Crown bid to have a serial sex offender jailed indefinitely has been rejected by a Durham judge, who ruled Michael Ross Stratton can be safely supervised in the community under a long-term offender order.
In a much-anticipated ruling Tuesday, Ontario Court Justice Paul Bellefontaine sentenced Mr. Stratton to 12 years in prison followed by 10 years of strict supervision by the National Parole Board. Mr. Stratton pleaded guilty in 2009 to 13 criminal charges, including the sexual molestation of several young girls.
"The evidence in this matter is compelling that Mr. Stratton is treatable in the sense that his risk can be controlled in the community over the currency of a long-term offender supervision order," Justice Bellefontaine told a packed Oshawa courtroom.
Mr. Stratton, who was arrested in June of 2006, was given nine years' credit for the time he's served while awaiting sentencing, leaving him three years of jail time. Mr. Stratton could be eligible for parole within months. Upon his release from prison, he will be subject to the 10-year long-term offender designation.
Justice Bellefontaine recommended Mr. Stratton be given psychological treatment for his sexual disorder and substance abuse, and that he be subjected to chemical castration to reduce his sex drive.
The ruling came as a disappointment to one young woman, who as a girl was sexually assaulted by Mr. Stratton.
"It felt like what happened doesn't matter," she said outside court.
Earlier, the young woman, whose identity is protected by a court order, read a victim impact statement detailing how the attacks had affected her.
"The horror you have bestowed on me is excruciating," she said, sobbing in the courtroom witness stand as Mr. Stratton listened from the prisoner's dock.
"I hope you never make it to be a free man again."
During a lengthy hearing this fall, prosecutor Kent Saliwonchyk urged the judged to declare Mr. Stratton a dangerous offender, arguing an indeterminate sentence was the only way to protect society from a sexual predator.
Defence lawyer Alan Risen fought against the designation, arguing Mr. Stratton's crimes didn't meet the criteria for a dangerous offender label and citing psychological assessments that indicated he can be managed through supervision and treatment.
Psychologists who testified during the dangerous offender application agreed that Mr. Stratton represents a moderate to high risk to re-offend, but that with treatment and interventions such a chemical castration, that risk could be managed. They also predicted that as time goes on and he ages, Mr. Stratton's sexual drive will ebb.
In making his ruling, Justice Bellefontaine acknowledged that no sentence is likely to heal the wounds inflicted by Mr. Stratton, who abused several young girls, including daughters of friends. Court heard he plied victims with drugs, booze and threats, and made hours of videotapes of himself abusing the girls. Those tapes were among the evidence found by police during a search at his Whitby home in June of 2006.
"These were obviously very vulnerable victims Mr. Stratton was preying on," Justice Bellefontaine remarked.