Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. (Greg Banning/The Canadian Press)

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set for parole bid after 25 years in prison

Bernardo’s parole hearing at the Bath Institution is expected to attract numerous observers

Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement.

Designated a dangerous offender, Bernardo, 54, became eligible for parole in February but has so far not been allowed beyond the confines of his maximum security prison in eastern Ontario.

Bernardo’s parole hearing at the Bath Institution is expected to attract numerous observers, most of whom will have to watch via a videolink. The hearing also comes almost two weeks after the prosecution withdrew a weapon-possession charge against him related to the discovery of a screw attached to a ballpoint pen handle in his cell.

Defence lawyer Fergus (Chip) O’Connor did not respond Tuesday to a request to discuss his client’s bid for freedom. However, at the aborted weapon trial this month, he outlined the pitch Bernardo was expected to make to the National Parole Board panel.

“He’s as horrified as you and I are at what he did,” O’Connor said. “I expect that he will take full responsibility, express remorse, and he appears to be sincere in that.”

While isolation has limited available programming, Bernardo has made a “determined effort not to make up for what he’s done — for that can never be done — but to improve himself” and has been of good behaviour in “very hard conditions” of confinement, O’Connor said.

Bernardo’s crimes over several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of which he videotaped, sparked widespread terror and revulsion.

Among them, Bernardo and his then-wife Karla Homolka kidnapped, tortured and killed Leslie Mahaffy, 14, of Burlington, Ont., in June 1991 at their home in Port Dalhousie, Ont., before dismembering her body, encasing her remains in cement and dumping them in a nearby lake. Dubbed the “Scarborough rapist,” Bernardo also tortured and killed Kristen French, 15, of St. Catharines, Ont., in April 1992 after keeping her captive for three days.

READ MORE: Killer Paul Bernardo set for weapon trial; accused of having ‘shank’

READ MORE: Convicted killer Paul Bernardo faces weapons possession charge

Bernardo was ultimately convicted in 1995 of the first-degree murders of the two teens and numerous sexual assaults. He was given life without parole eligibility until he had served 25 years since his arrest in early 1993.

Tim Danson, long-time lawyer for the girls’ families, would not discuss Bernardo’s parole bid.

“For a variety of very sensitive reasons, neither I nor the families will be making any public comments until after the hearing,” Danson said on Tuesday.

O’Connor conceded his client was reviled for his “horrific crimes.” Still, he has “loving parents” who visit him regularly, and the parole board will take into consideration his behaviour in prison and whether he still poses a danger to the community, the lawyer said.

“Their decision will be not how much he should suffer, but does he present a risk,” O’Connor said. “The issue is not just desserts; the issue is risk.”

O’Connor has also noted that Bernardo was realistic about his prospects of gaining parole.

The odds are against Bernardo’s early release given his crimes. Overall, authorities say only three in 10 inmates win parole on first try.

“Not all lifers will be granted parole,” Correctional Service Canada notes. “Some may never be released…because they continue to represent too great a risk to reoffend.”

Bernardo’s parole bid comes against a backdrop of controversy over the unrelated prison transfer of another convicted child killer, Terri-Lynne McClintic.

Recent word that McClintic, who helped her boyfriend Michael Rafferty kidnap, rape, and kill eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford in Woodstock, Ont., in 2008., had been moved to an Indigenous-centric prison in Saskatchewan known as a healing lodge sparked an uproar that reached the House of Commons. The Conservative opposition jumped on the issue as proof the Liberal government was soft on crime.

In response, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale asked Correctional Service Canada to review the move. On Tuesday, Goodale introduced legislation aimed at addressing long-standing issues with segregation and treating mentally ill offenders.

“We are committed to a correctional system that keeps Canadians safe and holds guilty parties accountable for breaking the law while fostering practical rehabilitation,” Goodale said.

Bernardo, who admitted raping 14 other women, was also convicted of manslaughter in the December 1990 death of Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy. The 15-year-old girl died after the pair drugged and sexually assaulted her. Homolka later said she wanted Bernardo to have Tammy’s virginity as a Christmas present.

Homolka served 12 years until 2005 after pleading guilty to manslaughter in what critics branded as a “deal with the devil.” It was revealed last year that the mother of three had been volunteering at a Montreal-area elementary school.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

27th Annual Courtenay and District Fish & Game Outdoor Show coming in June

June is just around the corner and so is the 27th Annual… Continue reading

Vacancies on Courtenay Board of Variance

The City of Courtenay is seeking new members for an important volunteer… Continue reading

No injuries in early morning Comox car fire

Comox firefighters responded to an early morning vehicle fire Monday near the… Continue reading

New version of outdoor art show set to take place in Comox in August

Despite the announcement earlier this year of the cancellation of the Originals… Continue reading

Tales from MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Robert Moyes Special to The Record Doug Cox, artistic director and executive… Continue reading

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read