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Longer murder terms urged

Manitoba MP's bill says up to 40 years

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba MP James Bezan wants to change the Criminal Code to allow the courts to keep convicted rapists and murderers behind bars as long as 40 years before they can seek parole.

Bezan, the Conservative MP from Selkirk-Interlake, introduced a private member's bill Wednesday that he has labelled the Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act.

The single-page bill would allow a judge to increase the time from 25 years to a maximum of 40 years someone convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault or murder must serve before being eligible for parole.

"This bill is not about creating stiffer penalties for sadistic murderers," Bezan said when he introduced it.

"These depraved convicts do not qualify for parole. My bill is about saving families of the victims from having to go through the agony of attending unnecessary and traumatic parole hearings." He said families are terrorized again every time they have to appear at a parole hearing.

"When we pass my bill, it will help those families to not have to deal with those experiences over and over again when it is completely unnecessary," Bezan said.

NDP Justice critic Franßoise Boivin said her party has not made a decision about the bill but said she has to make a recommendation to her party by the middle of March.

"There is nothing more frustrating for families than to go back and back, so I understand the sentiment," Boivin said of the bill. "But with the Conservatives, the devil is in the details."

She said she will consult various experts about the subject over the next few weeks before making her recommendation to the party.

Bezan said he began working on the bill more than a year ago, prompted, in part, by comments from the mother of one of the victims of convicted serial killer Clifford Olson shortly after Olson's death. Bezan said the woman lamented that having to go before the parole board every two years was terrifying. Bezan said it allowed Olson to victimize the families over and over again.

He said he also was driven by the case of Ontario schoolgirl Tori Stafford. The eight-year-old was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in April 2009. One of her attackers, Michael Rafferty, was convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault and murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years. The other attacker, Terry-Lynne McClintic, made a plea deal and pled guilty to first-degree murder.

"Just watching that case ripped my heart open," Bezan said.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 A12

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