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Lawyer for families of Bernardo victims wants different prison transfer rules for violent offenders

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Tim Danson, the lawyer and legal counsel for the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, who were killed by Paul Bernardo, is calling for changes to the way prison transfers are handled for violent offenders.

Danson appeared via video conference before the House of Commons public safety committee studying the rights of victims of crime and the reclassification and transfer of federal offenders on Monday, delivering a presentation and taking questions from committee members for nearly two hours.

During his opening remarks to the committee at the top of the session, Danson called for a separate, more restrictive regime for approving and managing the transfer of violent offenders from maximum-security facilities to medium-security facilities. Currently, he argued, prison transfers for violent offenders follow the same process used when offenders convicted of other crimes are transferred.

"In practice, the system treats most offenders the same, and we submit to you that you cannot treat offenders who receive fixed sentences the same way that you treat offenders who receive life a sentence," he told the committee on Monday, "and in Bernardo's case, an indeterminate sentence because of his dangerous offender designation."

The meeting follows Bernardo's controversial transfer on May 29 from the maximum-security Millhaven Institution to the medium-security La Macaza Institution.

The transfer sparked intense debate and concern among the families of his victims and set off a politician firestorm, with federal Conservatives demanding that the Liberal government ensure his return to maximum security. It also raised questions about the policies and processes governing the security reclassification and transfer of offenders within the Correctional Service of Canada.

However, a review of the decision to transfer him released in July concluded officials followed proper policies, and said Bernardo had long met the criteria to be reclassified as a medium-security prisoner and was only moved after he proved he could fully integrate with other inmates.

Bernardo is also scheduled for a parole hearing in February 2024, The Canadian Press reports.

Watch Danson’s presentation to the committee in the video player at the top of this article.

– With files from The Canadian Press 

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