Questions Arise Over Drop in Electronic Monitoring of BC Convicts

Electronic monitoring of recently released convicts has dropped sharply in B.C. in recent years, numbers released by the government show.

The Crown did not seek electronic monitoring for Raymond Caissie, a high-risk sex offender who has now been charged in the slaying of a Surrey teen. The Crown also did not seek a curfew. A spokesman has refused to disclose why.

Mr. Caissie is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch. She was last seen getting on a bus on the evening of Sept. 15. Her body was discovered the next day.

Mr. Caissie spent more than two decades in jail after he sexually assaulted a young woman who worked at a museum, and was the subject of a public alert when he was released from custody. The National Parole Board last year said he was likely to commit an offence causing serious harm. His sentence expired two months later.

The B.C. Ministry of Justice said the number of individuals under electronic monitoring has declined in the past five years. In fiscal year of 2009-10, there were 172 such cases. In 2011-12, there were 119. And in 2013-14, the number dropped to 75.

The ministry did not provide an explanation. It said the court ultimately determines which conditions are applied to a person.

Three defence lawyers who spoke with The Globe said they had noticed electronic monitoring was being used much less frequently.

Eric Gottardi said he hasn’t had a case where electronic monitoring was sought by the Crown for six or seven years.

“I don’t even know if it’s available right now,” he said in an interview. “I couldn’t tell you the state of affairs.”

Michael Mines, who has practised for about two decades, said electronic monitoring was much more common in his first 10 years than the past 10. Mark Thompson, who has also been a lawyer for about two decades, agreed with Mr. Mines’s assessment.

Exactly why is unclear. Mr. Mines wondered whether the system was too costly, while Mr. Thompson said he believed it was relatively inexpensive.

B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton – who earlier in the week said the province would review its monitoring of high-risk offenders – said Wednesday she would support a more extensive use of electronic monitoring in certain cases.

“It’s something that possibly could be used more,” she told reporters in Whistler.

Ms. Anton said she spoke with federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay about the case Tuesday night, and they discussed whether the necessary tools are in place. Mr. MacKay has said he is looking at ways to further protect the public from violent sexual offenders.

Mr. Mines and Mr. Thompson described a low-tech monitoring system in which a person is required to have a land line and answer it when an official calls. The ministry said it could not provide details about electronic monitoring for security reasons. It said B.C. Corrections monitors individuals 24 hours a day and has a protocol in place to attend to reported violations.

The Crown had obtained a Section 810.2 recognizance against Mr. Caissie, which placed several conditions on him, including that he keep the peace, not possess weapons, and not possess controlled substances.

An advisory committee that includes correctional officials, police, and the Crown determines whether court-ordered supervision is needed for a person who is a high risk to reoffend. The committee considers factors such as past offences, participation in programs while in custody, and psychiatric reports. The court order can last for up to two years.

Mr. Gottardi said the Crown is only supposed to seek conditions that are responsive to each specific case.

“It’s not necessarily a recommended Crown approach just to simply seek the most restrictive terms humanly possible in every case,” he said.

Mr. Gottardi said one option might be to give the Crown the ability to make a long-term or dangerous offender application in the months leading up to the end of an inmate’s sentence. Such a designation can currently be made only around the time of sentencing.

The Globe earlier this week reported on the release of parole board documents involving Mr. Caissie. The documents span from 2006 to 2013, a portion of his sentence.

In 2006, the board said Mr. Caissie had a “long history of sexually inappropriate and violent behaviour” and his time in prison had been marred by violence and threats.

A year later, the board said Mr. Caissie had agreed with his case management team and a psychologist that he was not ready for a release into the community.

In 2008, Mr. Caissie was reported as saying he feared he would harm another person if he were released from prison. The board said he later recanted that claim, but still expressed concern about finding a job and living independently.

In 2010, Mr. Caissie pushed a correctional officer and challenged him to a fight, but by 2012 he had told a psychologist he was older and more mature and had no desire to be violent any more.

Last year, the board noted Mr. Caissie had not participated in any supervision programs since his last review and said he had been part of a plot to injure a staff member, an accusation Mr. Caissie denied.

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