By Sue Yanagisawa, Kingston Whig-Standard – Monday, April 16, 2012

A 67-year-old former Kingston resident was finally unmasked last week as a child molester who, while appearing to be a law-abiding citizen for more than six decades, preyed on five little girls through the 1970s and 1980s.

Edward Bruce Fleet pleaded guilty in Kingston’s Ontario Court of Justice to two counts of indecent assault and three counts of sexual assault.

Justice Rommel Masse was told that one of his victims was six when he first abused her sexually, and the youngest was three when he was caught in the act.

Unfortunately, the person who caught him was also a child at the time, who snatched the toddler away from him and reported the crime to Fleet’s wife, according to assistant Crown attorney John Skoropada.

Fleet’s spouse at that time, now deceased, suffered from what the prosecutor described as “anxiety issues,” however, and collapsed when confronted with her husband’s proclivities. Skoropada told Masse that emergency services had to be summoned to tend to her distress, but the basis for it appears not to have been disclosed.

Fleet wasn’t reported to police or made to account until a little over three years ago, when his victims – all now grown women – told Kingston Police what he’d done to them.

He was ultimately arrested and charged with 10 offences, including sexual exploitation and child pornography charges. He ended up spending 40 months in protective pretrial custody at Quinte Detention Centre before finally deciding to admit to a reduced list of offences.

The facts to which he agreed in court, however, included details from most of the dropped charges, with the exception of the child pornography allegations.

Fleet’s 40 months of custody awaiting trial was acknowledged by Masse, who sentenced him to time served, and because his arrest happened prior to Parliament changing the law on enhanced credit for pretrial custody, he was given double credit. Consequently, his penalty is deemed the equivalent of a six-year, eight-month sentence for his crimes.

Two of Fleet’s victims read their victim-impact statements to the judge in open court and spoke of the lasting impact his predations had on their lives.

One spoke of being not believed by other adults, who should have protected her, and how their silence protected her abuser, instead.

“The hurt inside me is always there,” she told Masse. “I learned to keep one foot out the door, so to speak.”

Another told the judge, “I don’t really remember having a childhood.”

Fleet’s lawyer, Kenneth Byers, told Masse his client claims he was also sexually abused as a child and argued that there were mitigating factors recommending his release after 40 months, including his guilty pleas. That, he said, “avoided forcing the victims, who have been through enough, having to take the stand” and testify.

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Provided by the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada