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Judge opts for more lenient sentence in Guelph human trafficking case

Written ruling offers glimpse into the world of human trafficking and that it happens in the Royal City
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A Guelph man who pleaded guilty to human trafficking last year has been given a sentence less than half the stated minimum in the Canadian Criminal Code.

Dominic Strickland-Prescod, 24, pleaded guilty to human trafficking last spring following his arrest in March 2018 for pimping an aquaintance in a Guelph motel, taking her car keys and identification and witholding her money.

He gave her cocaine and $20 for food.

The Criminal Code states the sentence for this category of human trafficking is a minimum of four years in jail to a maximum of 14 years.

But the defence argued successfully that the four-year minimum was “grossly disproportionate” given the facts of the case and stated it contravened section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as cruel and unusual punishment.

Justice Michael Wendt ruled earlier this month that Strickland-Prescod will receive a 21-month sentence and two years probation.

He has been in custody since his arrest and given the 1.5 multiplier commonly awarded in court for time served while awaiting trial, he has now surpassed that 21 month jail sentence.

In part, the judge ruled that this particular human trafficking case included some complicity on behalf of the victim, she was not underage, there was no physical violence and he did not physically stop her from leaving.

“However, on these facts it appears that the victim approached Mr. Strickland-Prescod and she agreed, at least initially, to perform sexual services in exchange for drugs. There is no evidence that he threatened her or exerted physical force over her or stopped her from leaving,” states the written ruling.

“The operation was small, and the duration was short, it involved only one encounter. However, that may only be luck,” the judge wrote.

Court heard that the then-24-year-old woman came to Guelph with her boyfriend and got into an argument with him, parting ways. She contacted Strickland-Prescod, who she knew casually. At the time he was living in a motel in the north end of Guelph.

“The accused told the victim she could stay with him for the night. He agreed to provide her with drugs but stated that she had to work for them. She did not want to do this, but thought if she did, she could get some money to buy some drugs,” says the agreed statement of facts in court documents.

Strickland-Prescod, who is described as being a drug addict at the time, took pictures of the victim in lingerie and posted an ad on an escort service web site.

Police would later discover a total of 41 phone numbers in Strickland-Prescod’s phone that contained text message conversations with potential male clients discussing the sale of the victim’s sexual services.

“Mr. Strickland-Prescod told the victim he would charge clients $160 per half hour and $240 per hour for her sexual services. Mr. Strickland-Prescod would arrange the dates and she was to get the cash from the clients prior to performing any sexual acts. She was then to hand the money over to Mr. Strickland-Prescod. She thought he would keep the money safe and then pass it on to her. She thought he would probably keep some of the money.”

He also took away her driver’s licence and car keys. He also sent photos and a video of her to his friends.

After a client came to the hotel room for sex, Strickland-Prescod kept the money that the victim had earned on the call, gave her some cocaine and then another $20 when she told him she needed food.

It was the only sexual encounter that occurred.

“The victim told police she did not believe she could leave the situation she was in, as she had no money, no phone, no family or friends in town and Mr. Strickland-Prescod was in possession of her car and her ID.”

On March 12, 2018, Strickland-Prescod was driving around in the victim’s car with her in the passenger seat when they were pulled over by Guelph Police on a traffic stop.

When pulled over, he “threw a bag of marijuana” at the victim.

“Ultimately, this horrible incident was of short duration, appears to have been, at least initially, voluntarily engaged by the victim to obtain drugs, no violence or threats were used, although Mr. Strickland-Prescod kept some part of $140 he gave the victim money for food upon request and drugs upon request," the judge said.

"The most aggravating factor is that this appears to have been a longer-term plan.”