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Family wants liquor stores to post photos of drunk driver when he leaves prison

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HALIFAX - The parents of a teenager who died in a collision with a drunk driver want photos of the man posted inside Nova Scotia liquor stores after the parole board said he told them he would likely continue to drink and drive once free.

Michael Gerard Cooper will be released from Dorchester Penitentiary on Tuesday after serving his full seven-year sentence for the deaths of Angela Smits, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Michael MacLean.

Gerard Smits, the young woman's father, wants liquor stores and bars to be aware of Cooper and restrictions placed on him so that he won't able to purchase alcohol. Through his lawyer, he made the request to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., the province's Utility and Review Board and the Alcohol and Gaming Division.

"It's for the safety of the people of the province," he said from Sydney River in Cape Breton.

"It's pretty horrendous that someone could actually take the lives of two people, serve seven years in a penitentiary and have enough time to think about it and still come out and be that adamant that he's going to do the same thing all over again."

The Utility and Review Board, which licences liquor establishments, said it is reviewing the unusual request and has yet to determine what it will do, if anything. Paul Allen, the board's spokesman, said he has never seen any such appeal in the 26 years he has been there.

Mike Maloney, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Liquor, said the Crown agency is looking into the matter to determine how to proceed. He said they have worked with police before in keeping an eye out for people who are wanted by them.

But he said they've never received a request of this breadth before.

"To my knowledge no one's ever asked that many different boards and entities for such a blanket kind of approach," he said.

"We're trying to weigh the best decision with what we're legally able to do and what works best with the process we have in place already."

Cooper was convicted of two counts of impaired driving in 2007 following the accident on May 14, 2007. Cooper had spent hours drinking at a bar in St. Peter's, N.S., and began driving home when he crossed the centre line. He collided with MacLean's car, killing the young couple on scene.

He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison along with a 99-year ban on driving. He was also handed 22 conditions in a recognizance, including a prohibition on drinking for two years after his release.

But at hearings with the Parole Board of Canada, Cooper said he would not stop drinking and driving.

"You admitted to your pattern of drinking and driving and stated that you would likely consume alcohol and drive a motor vehicle regardless of whether or not a special condition or a court order was imposed," a parole board official wrote last March after a hearing that denied early release.

"Your lack of progress during the past year has been demonstrated by your continued rigid thinking to the effect that you cannot commit to refraining from impaired driving."

The Nova Scotia Justice Department was awaiting a decision from a high-risk offender committee made up of police and Justice officials, which could determine whether the public should be notified of Cooper's release.

Spokesman Chad Lucas said that decision would likely become public the day Cooper is released. He said the police force where Cooper resides would then decide whether to issue a public notice, but the liquor corporation would decide independently whether it would post Cooper's photo.

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