Sex trafficking advocates say the recent arrest of Lauriston Maloney — a convicted sex offender who police allege briefly lived at an Ontario child care centre —raises questions as to whether harsher sentences are needed.
In mid-July, Ontario Provincial Police issued a warning, saying a convicted sex offender was living at a children’s centre, which offers services for children with autism in Essa Township, near Barrie, Ont. The warning said 42-year-old Maloney had previous convictions, including “human trafficking of children.”
Maloney was not under any conditions relating to associating with young children, police said at the time.
Days later, Maloney was arrested along with his partner who ran the centre. Police said he had been charged with two counts of assault, trafficking in a person, receiving material benefit from trafficking a person, and forcible confinement.
His partner, Amber-Lee Maloney, faced charges, including trafficking in a person receiving material benefits from trafficking a person. The allegations against Maloney and his partner, Amber-Lee Maloney, have not been proven in court.
Police said the victim in the new case where charges have been laid was not from the children’s centre.
“The victim in the case was not an attendee of the Beating the Odds day camp. The victim is in a place of safety and being provided support,” police said.
The arrest was not Maloney’s first, or even second charge relating to trafficking. His criminal record dates back years, police said, with previous convictions in 2004 and 2013 in Peel Region.
“It’s a total of 16 criminal charges related to human trafficking and trafficking of minor age children, which has put him on the sex offender registry,” police said.
Kelly Franklin, founder and CEO of Courage for Freedom, an agency that helps survivors leave and heal from sex trafficking, said his repeat convictions are not a shock.
“We always know who these people are, and they tend to resurface. Yes, I can say that knowing who this person is and has been, I can say without any reservation that I have been in contact with people that have suffered at his hands,” Franklin told Global News.
Couple running camp for kids charged with human trafficking
Parole documents previously obtained by Global News recount Maloney’s criminal history, which revolves around making money from “prostitution” over many years.
“His deviant behaviour is masked by his well-developed social skills and pro-social representation that includes positive impression management,” one line included in the parole board decision for Maloney states.
The parole documents said that between Fall 2010 and May 2011, Maloney controlled the movement of five women to compel them to work in the sex trade. The women were aged 18 to 22.
Franklin said offenders will plead guilty to lesser charges which can leave victims feeling “deflated” and seeing the promises made to convince them to act as witnesses seemingly broken.
“They do not feel like justice is served, and in those things, we just continue to present to the traffickers that this is easy money.”
Maloney’s first federal sentence came in 2004 and was related to “prostitution offences involving minor females.”
Indictment documents from Peel Region, where Maloney was arrested, were recently obtained by Global News.
In an indictment from September 2004, which appears to have later been withdrawn, prosecutors accused Maloney of making money from “prostitution”, exercising control over several women, and helping them to engage in prostitution.
In an interview with CTV, Maloney said his conviction in 2004 stemmed from running an escort agency and that one of the girls was underaged had given him false identification.
But the indictment from September 2004 included charges relating to two underage girls.
A second indictment document from December 2004 shows Maloney pleaded guilty and was convicted in relation to six victims, including two who were underage.
“He is a pimp by virtue of that profession — you can pretty much bet he is a master manipulator and liar,” Wendy Lowe, Defend Dignity’s executive director, alleged.
“He’s going after vulnerable girls.”
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According to a StatsCan report from 2021, at least 45 per cent of all victims of human trafficking in Canada are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, while 24 per cent are 17 years old or under.
Two of the complainants listed in the withdrawn indictment also appear in the second, including one of the girls listed as underaged, but not all the names appear in both documents.
Advocates say it’s not uncommon for survivors and those trying to leave trafficking not to want to cooperate with the police.
Lowe said Maloney’s case illustrates a widespread issue.
She said frontline agencies often “feel compelled” to tell their clients even after going to the police that it’s likely their trafficker will only serve a two-year sentence.
“That’s the top end of what they’re ending up serving, and most frequently, the cases will be withdrawn, or they’ll move to charge on something lesser than,” she said.
“It speaks to the stress on the Crown prosecutors’ side and police and in trying to use the laws that currently exist in getting convictions that bring meaningful sentences.”
The StatsCan report also found that in 81 per cent of criminal court cases involving a human trafficking charge between 2010-2011 and 2020-2021, the human trafficking charge was either stayed, withdrawn, dismissed or discharged.
The report found that only 12 per cent of cases resulted in a guilty decision.
Peel Regional Police told Global News its investigation into Maloney began in 2002 and said laws around “human trafficking” and “prostitution” have “changed significantly” since then.
“In Peel, we focus on a victim-centred approach to human trafficking investigations, as we closely work with our social service partners in the community to support the victim,” a spokesperson said.
They said after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2013, the police approach to similar crimes changed. Peel police called the charges from 2004 “dated” in the context of the force’s new approach and Canada’s legal system.
“The exploitation of sex workers is an ongoing concern and occurs for many complex reasons,” said police, urging anyone who knows someone who is being exploited or is being exploited to contact police.
Maloney was released on bail earlier this month, and advocates believe his bail decision could further dissuade potential victims from speaking out.
“It’s hard for them to feel safe anywhere, let alone facing them in court, but also hard for them to feel safe when he can be charged again and walk out of court to be at home with his father,” Lowe said.
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