De­tails of dou­ble killer’s pa­role hear­ing kept pri­vate while pub­lic left in dark

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - LI­CIA COR­BELLA Li­cia Cor­bella is a Post­media opin­ion colum­nist. lcor­[email protected]­media.com

Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all with re­gard to Canada’s jus­tice sys­tem, along comes an­other pol­icy that sim­ply takes your breath away — in the neg­a­tive sense of the term.

James Peters had a pa­role hear­ing Nov. 16 in Dorch­ester, N.B., where, after about four hours, the two-time sex slayer was de­nied pa­role. That’s the good news. Hold tight for the bad.

Peters, along with his part­ner in crime, the now-de­ceased Robert Brown, was con­victed Jan. 18, 1983, of two counts of first­de­gree mur­der for the ab­duc­tion, rape and mur­ders of Deb­bie Stevens of High River on Dec. 12, 1981, and 16-year-old Lau­rie Boyd of High River on Jan. 30, 1982.

After both men took turns rap­ing the vic­tims, they blud­geoned and stabbed them and then set their bod­ies on fire. The crimes spread fear across Al­berta.

While it’s good news that Peters was de­nied pa­role, the bad news is the Pa­role Board of Canada can’t share the writ­ten de­ci­sion with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and the me­dia — putting a dou­ble mur­derer’s pri­vacy rights ahead of the pub­lic’s safety and right to know.

“It’s ex­tremely up­set­ting,” said Dar­lene Boyd, who read a 15-minute vic­tim-im­pact state­ment in New Brunswick, with for­mer Cal­gary Re­form and Con­ser­va­tive party MP Art Hanger sit­ting by her side for sup­port.

Nor­mally, re­ceiv­ing pa­role board de­ci­sions is a sim­ple task. One need only fill out a form, send it to the ap­pro­pri­ate pa­role board of­fice, and all rul­ings and de­ci­sions about the in­mate in ques­tion are emailed to you. I’ve made dozens of these re­quests over the decades and have never be­fore been de­nied.

Ap­par­ently, be­cause Peters has ap­plied for Es­corted Tem­po­rary Ab­sences (ETAs), all de­ci­sions are “not re­leasable.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lynne O’Brien, a re­gional man­ager with the Pa­role Board of Canada’s At­lantic re­gion, since Nov. 1, 1992, the Cor­rec­tions and Con­di­tional Re­lease Act re­quires the Pa­role Board to main­tain a registry of its de­ci­sions along with the rea­sons for those de­ci­sions, some­thing that any­one may re­quest, in writ­ing.

“How­ever, de­ci­sions made un­der Part 1 of the CCRA, which in­cludes Es­corted Tem­po­rary Ab­sences, are not re­leasable through the registry of de­ci­sions,” O’Brien said in a writ­ten state­ment.

In other words, Peters and other dan­ger­ous pris­on­ers need only ap­ply for ETAs and their files are off lim­its to the pub­lic, leav­ing so­ci­ety in the dark as to how dan­ger­ous a per­son is.

It’s an ab­so­lute out­rage. “It’s dis­gust­ing how these mon­sters are treated with kid gloves,” said Hanger.

“They send child mur­der­ers just a few years into their sen­tence to min­i­mum se­cu­rity heal­ing lodges and don’t in­form com­mu­ni­ties about it. It’s dan­ger­ous, it’s wrong and it should be changed,” added Hanger. He’s right.

In the in­terim, there is a sim­ple so­lu­tion to this. Rather than fold­ing ETA de­ci­sions into the rest of a pa­role board re­port, it could and should be sep­a­rated into two de­ci­sions.

Bet­ter yet, pro­vi­sions should be made to al­low for de­tails about the ETAs to be redacted from the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments. Best of all, this ridicu­lous mol­ly­cod­dling of Canada’s mur­der­ers should stop. They should not have such blan­ket pro­tec­tion of their pri­vacy. They killed that right when they mur­dered an­other hu­man be­ing.

As for Dar­lene Boyd, 71, she says re­liv­ing her daugh­ter’s mur­der ev­ery time Peters ap­plies for pa­role, is like “tor­ture.”

“I haven’t slept since I saw him and heard his voice in New Brunswick,” said Boyd, who be­came a re­luc­tant but ef­fec­tive jus­tice cru­sader through­out the 1990s when Peters at­tempted to get out of prison, un­der a pro­vi­sion of the Crim­i­nal Code called the Faint Hope Clause, after serv­ing just 15 years of his life sen­tence.

Once the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives had a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment, the Faint Hope Clause was struck from the law, some­thing Hanger says “Dar­lene de­serves all the credit for.”

Thank­fully, Hanger took notes dur­ing the re­cent hear­ing in Dorch­ester.

It was re­vealed that Peters was sent back to the medium se­cu­rity Dorch­ester In­sti­tu­tion from a min­i­mum se­cu­rity prison.

It was also ex­posed that be­fore mur­der­ing Stevens and Boyd, Peters was ac­cused of rap­ing the daugh­ter of his em­ployer.

Ac­cord­ing to Hanger, Peters was work­ing at a chicken farm near Blackie, near Oko­toks, when he grabbed one of the young daugh­ters, held a knife to her throat and sodom­ized her.

Hanger also pointed out that Peters has had nu­mer­ous ETAs, in­clud­ing to at­tend Al­co­holics Anony­mous, to per­form com­mu­nity ser­vice and for fam­ily con­tact.

“Why would some­one who has spent the last 35 years in mostly a medium-se­cu­rity prison need to go to AA?” asked Hanger. “Where’s he get­ting the booze?” It’s a great ques­tion. Hanger also says that in 2013, Peters ap­par­ently en­gaged in “in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­iour” to­ward a fe­male vol­un­teer at an AA meet­ing out in the com­mu­nity.

The pa­role board ruled that Peters “is an un­due risk to the pub­lic safety and his in­sight into his crimes is lim­ited.”

On Fri­day at 5 p.m., the new Lau­rie Boyd pedes­trian bridge be­hind the pub­lic li­brary in Oko­toks will be of­fi­cially opened. Many peo­ple, in­clud­ing thenCrown pros­e­cu­tor of the case, Peter Mar­tin (now a jus­tice on Al­berta’s Court of Ap­peal), Rob Laird, the then-RCMP of­fi­cer who ar­rested Brown, Oko­toks Mayor Bill Robert­son, the Boyds and some of Lau­rie Boyd’s child­hood friends will be in at­ten­dance.

“Some­thing beau­ti­ful in the midst of all this ug­li­ness,” said Dar­lene.

Now, if only our fed­eral leg­is­la­tors did some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful and changed this law to bring trans­parency back into pa­role de­ci­sions of mur­der­ers. That would be breath­tak­ing in the best mean­ing of the term.

It’s dis­gust­ing how these mon­sters are treated with kid gloves ... It’s dan­ger­ous, it’s wrong and it should be changed.


Dar­lene and Doug Boyd stand on the Lau­rie Boyd Bridge, which is to be of­fi­cially opened in a cer­e­mony on Fri­day. The bridge was named in hon­our of their daugh­ter, who was mur­dered in Oko­toks in 1982.


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