Crown argues public needs to be protected from violent offender

At the end of his dangerous offender hearing on Friday, Tyler Strathdee rose in the prisoner’s box and ripped open the Velcro closure on his bright orange remand centre coveralls.

Once the judge left the courtroom, Strathdee stomped toward the cells. With leg shackles clanging, he banged the door open.

For the past two weeks, the convicted sex offender has been listening to lawyers and mental health professionals describe him as a psychopath — high-risk and violent.

The Crown had asked Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Little to designate Strathdee a dangerous offender and give him an indefinite prison sentence. 

“Tyler Strathdee is a very dangerous man,” Crown prosecutor Chantelle Washenfelder told the judge in her closing arguments Friday.

“Whether you are male or female, whether you are known to him or not, his pattern of offending has become more violent, more injurious, more harmful to his victims both physically and psychologically.”

According to federal statistics, there were 623 designated dangerous offenders in Canada last year. The designation is reserved for the nation’s most violent criminals, who are jailed until the risk of them re-offending can be managed. 

Assessments prepared for Strathdee’s hearing by a psychiatrist and psychologist determined he is a dangerous psychopath who presents a high risk to re-offend violently and sexually.

‘He has no remorse’

Washenfelder argued society needs to be protected from him, especially since the mental health experts pointed out psychopaths do not respond well to treatment.

“He has no empathy. He has no remorse,” Washenfelder said. “He’s manipulative, callous, deceitful, hostile, grandiose, attention-seeking and irresponsible.”

The dangerous offender designation was sought by the Crown after Little convicted Strathdee of sexually assaulting a woman on March 11, 2015. At the time, he had been free on bail for four days. 

Earlier this year, Strathdee was acquitted on a count of second-degree murder. The Crown is appealing that acquittal. 

Strathdee is currently serving a separate six-year sentence for robbery and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He also faces sentencing next month on three unrelated counts of aggravated assault. 

He has spent most of his adult life behind bars and has collected dozens of institutional charges for violence. 

The Crown argued Strathdee has been unable to restrain his urges or violent behaviour in or out of jail, and that it could take years for him to prove he’s able to change.

“Public safety demands it,” Washenfelder argued. “The court needs more than a mere hope.”

‘He can be changed’ 

Defence lawyer Allan Fay asked the judge to reject the dangerous offender designation because he said that label would leave Strathdee without hope or motivation to change. 

“He is not beyond redemption,” Fay argued. “He can be changed.” 

The lawyer noted Strathdee’s most recent crime spree in 2015 was fueled by a crystal meth addiction. He also pointed out that his client was transferred to a medium-security prison from maximum security and has been able to curtail or cut out his use of drugs and alcohol “of late” behind bars. 

“For the first time in a long time, he’s been able to control his impulses,” Fay said. “He’s walking the walk.” 

Fay asked the judge to impose a fixed sentence for the sex assault conviction, to be followed by a 10-year community supervision order.

:With the progress we’ve seen from him of late, that should give the court some comfort with the idea that this is an individual who can be salvaged, who can be controlled in the community,” Fay said.

“The best way to get him to that point is a determinate sentence and a long term supervision order.”

Little reserved his decision, but said he hopes to have a written decision ready before the case returns to court in January.