Families of Bernardo victims 'devastated' as day-parole hearing set
Published Tuesday, November 1, 2016 10:19AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2016 5:59PM EDT
The lawyer for the families of Paul Bernardo’s murder victims say they are “devastated” by the news that the notorious killer is scheduled for a day-parole hearing next year, but “knew this day would come.”
Tim Danson, a lawyer for the families of 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and 15-year-old Kristen French, has confirmed that Bernardo’s preliminary hearing for day parole is scheduled for next March.
In 1995, Bernardo was convicted of raping and murdering the teen girls. He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Bernardo became eligible for day parole after serving 22 years, despite his designation as a dangerous offender.
If granted day parole, Bernardo would be permitted to leave the prison during set times and then return at night.
Danson told CTV News Channel on Tuesday that he is confident that Bernardo’s request will be denied, and that the convicted killer will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
However, Danson said he and his clients are taking “nothing” for granted.
“We will be preparing the victim impact statements and participating in the parole hearing,” Danson said. “Nevertheless, I am confident that he will not be successful.”
Danson said though the Mahaffy and French families “knew this day would come,” they are devastated by the news that Bernardo is seeking day parole.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” Danson said. It’s hard to believe they have to confront this all over again. That they have to disclose, in a public hearing, the most private feelings and emotions, which is very difficult.”
He said the families have “adapted” to life following the horrific murders of their daughters “to the extent that it’s humanly possible, and then something like this just brings it all up again, and it’s torture for them.”
Danson added that it will be “tough” for the families to be in the same room as Bernardo during the hearing, but they understand that it is part of the legal process.
“I think what overtakes them is to still be there for their daughters, and to make sure that Paul Bernardo doesn’t get out.”
Holly Knowles, a spokesperson for the Parole Board of Canada, says Bernardo became eligible for day parole on Feb. 17, 2015. He is eligible for full parole in 2018.
Danson said Bernardo’s dangerous offender designation is a “very significant” finding that he believes must be considered.
“Before the parole board considers the normal criteria for parole eligibility, our view is that they must deal with the dangerous offender designation, that Paul Bernardo will have to put forward a compelling and reliable medical evidence that would displace the evidence that was put forward over 20 years ago for which he was found to be a dangerous offender.”
Knowles told The Canadian Press that dangerous offenders are not to be conditionally released by the parole board “unless and until they are deemed to be no longer an undue risk to the community.”
Citing privacy laws, Knowles said she could not comment on Bernardo’s case. However, Knowles said a dangerous offender designation is taken into consideration, along with psychological assessments and victim impact statements, during a parole board’s decision-making process.
With files from The Canadian Press