Man convicted of sexually abusing 18 boys over three decades released on parole

Gordon Stuckless arrives at court in Toronto on Tuesday April 22 , 2014. Stuckless, the man at the heart of the Maple Leaf Gardens sexual abuse scandal, has been released on parole. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The man at the heart of the Maple Leaf Gardens sexual abuse scandal has been released on day parole after officials found he presents a low risk of reoffending.

A document released by the Parole Board of Canada shows Gordon Stuckless was released to a halfway house in December for a period of up to six months, on condition that he follow a number of rules.

Those rules include avoiding male children under 18 and disclosing any relationships with adults who have male children, as well as following a treatment plan that includes chemical castration.

"There is no reliable or persuasive information to suggest that you committed any offences since 1995 and this is a significant factor in the board's assessment of your risk today," the parole board panel wrote in its decision.

"This is likely due to the courageous actions of the victims, stepping forward to tell their stories and exposing the breadth and depth of your decades of offending," it wrote.

"To your credit, you also began to finally receive professional help for your sexual deviancy.... Most importantly in the board's view, for decades you've remained compliant with sex drive reducing medication."

Stuckless's most recent psychological assessment indicates he shows a low risk for sexual recidivism, the panel said, adding it believes a "slow and gradual transition" back into the community is required.

The 70-year-old told the panel he has no plans to work as he considers himself retired, and will rely on his pension instead, the document says.

Stuckless was sentenced in 2016 to six and a half years behind bars — six after credit for his time on house arrest — for more than 100 offences related to the sexual abuse of 18 boys over three decades.

That sentence was increased to a decade after Ontario's highest court found the initial penalty was "demonstrably unfit" given the severity of his crimes.

The appeal court was split on the matter, however, and Stuckless's lawyer, Ari Goldkind, says he is seeking leave to challenge the ruling before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The case at issue concerns abuse that took place from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.

Court heard Stuckless, who was a volunteer hockey coach and teaching assistant on top of working at the famed Toronto arena, befriended boys and lured them with gifts and activities, sometimes even getting to know their families.

A statement of fact read at his trial said the abuse often took place over years and included fondling, masturbation, oral sex and in some cases, digital penetration.

In its written ruling, the parole board panel said Stuckless remains unsure of how many boys he abused in total and acknowledged more could potentially come forward in the future.

"At today's hearing, you explained the well-rehearsed grooming practices you would engage in your search for compliant victims.... You would instruct the children not to tell anyone about the abuse, and you threatened two of the victims," the panel wrote.

"To your credit, you accept full responsibility for your behaviour and your offending. Throughout your hearing, you presented as both remorseful and transparent."

Stuckless reported being sexually abused by older men when he was a child, and the panel noted that did not deter him from inflicting that same harm on children later.

Goldkind said he understands some may be outraged that his client has been released into the community.

"While people may have legitimate gripes with the criminal justice system, which are understandable, the parole board specifically deals with risk to reoffend," Goldkind said in a phone interview.

"That is cold comfort, obviously, to the dozens of victims ... but risk to reoffend now is very different than the criminal he was in the 60s, 70s and 80s."

Stuckless previously pleaded guilty in 1997 for sex assaults on 24 boys while he worked as an equipment manager at Maple Leaf Gardens between 1969 and 1988.

He was sentenced to two years less a day in that case, but that was increased to six years on appeal, less a year for time served.

He was freed on statutory release in that case in 2001 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 15, 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version mistakenly said Stuckless was previously paroled in 2001 when in fact he was freed on statutory release.

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