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Paul Bernardo is serving time to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and murder of two teenage girls, among others, in the 1990s. (Archive photo)
The Canadian Press
Newly released documents show that the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) blocked Paul Bernardo from asking his lawyer to make a statement to the media about his controversial transfer to a medium security prison in Quebec.
Late last May, Bernardo was transferred from the maximum security Millhaven Institution near Kingston, Ontario, to La Macaza Institution, a medium security prison located approximately 190 kilometers northwest of Montreal.
He is serving a life sentence for kidnapping, rape and murder of two teenage girls, Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14, in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ontario.
The killer was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the December 1990 death of 15-year-old Tammy Homolka, the younger sister of his ex-wife, Karla Homolka. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released in 2005 after serving a 12-year prison sentence for her role in the crimes.
Bernardo also admitted to sexually assaulting 14 other women.
His transfer last spring sparked a political storm for the Liberals. Conservatives and the families of two of Bernardo's victims have demanded that he be returned to a maximum security facility.
A review launched by CSC revealed that while it could have acted more sensitively when it came to informing its victims, the decision it made to reclassify Bernardo was sound .
The email about Bernardo's possible statement to the media was disclosed as part of a request for access to x27;information and was part of a series of messages between prison system staff and the Privy Council Office, which supports the operations of the Prime Minister's Office.
As the Liberals struggled to deal with the aftermath of moving one of Canada's most despised killers to a medium security prison, there were concerns that Bernardo would not speak out publicly. p>
We're told Bernardo discussed with his lawyer the possibility of speaking publicly on his behalf to the media, a Corrections staff member wrote to a colleague from the Privy Council in an email dated June 6.
We have since intervened and spoken to him about victim consideration and were told that x27;he would inform his lawyer.
A quote from Excerpt from an email from the Correctional Service
The email added that there is a slight possibility that the lawyer has already spoken to the media. It does not appear that Bernardo's lawyer made such a statement.
A Correctional Service spokesperson said CSC does not not telling detainees to refrain from speaking to the media, but listed a general process it follows for reviewing interview requests, which includes ensuring it does not compromise not an offender's correctional plan or glorify their crimes.
[We have] no record of any interview request made for this offender during this period, wrote Kevin Antonucci, without addressing the detailed intervention in the Bernardo case , according to the email.
The president of the Canadian Prison Law Association, Tom Engel, said it is not the role of the Correctional Service to muzzle inmates.
I cannot understand where [the Correctional Service of Canada] could think that this is part of its role, that of protecting victims from statements that #x27;a prisoner could do to the media, he said in an interview Tuesday.
I don't know where they think they have the power to do that.
A quote from Tom Engel, President of the Canadian Prison Law Association
He said it was understandable for prison officials to intervene in security matters involving inmates, such as if they caught an inmate trying to arrange a drug delivery. However, in this case, I don't see any authority or jurisdiction that they would need to do that or any responsibility that they would have to do that, he said.
The Correctional Service's review of Bernardo's transfer concluded that he had been eligible for transfer for years, but that it was not possible. is only produced once he has managed to integrate a little more with all the inmates, after having spent the majority of his sentence in solitary confinement.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hNZoeU">The federal Conservatives nevertheless continued to press for a parliamentary committee to further investigate the decision.
Tim Danson, the lawyer longtime representative of the French and Mahaffy families, said in an email that there was a problem with a lack of transparency surrounding the transfer.
Bernardo of course has the right to express himself freely, just as families and the general public have the right to access all information related to public safety, he said.
Mr. Danson indicated that the families asked the Supreme Court of Canada to consider a request for access to the files of correctional services and the Parole Board of Canada concerning Bernardo's application for parole, saying he refused to disclose them.
Bernardo's next parole hearing is scheduled for February, Danson added.< /p>
Catherine Latimer, president of the John Howard Society of Canada, said it was only right that incarcerated people should have the opportunity to #x27;explain what happens to them in detention.
Mr. She and Engel question how prison officials learned that Bernardo had discussed making such a statement with his attorney, given that attorney-client conversations are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Correctional Service has not yet responded to questions on this subject.
Mrs Latimer argued that detainees should have access to the media like any other citizen, while acknowledging that there might be limits to what they can say if it concerns the safety of x27;a facility or another inmate.
I don't know if this would have been effective or not. But I think he probably had a legitimate interest in speaking at that time, she said.