B.C. tables law forbidding profit from crimes

Robert Pickton.
Robert Pickton. Global News files

VICTORIA – British Columbia has introduced legislation to prevent serial killer Robert Pickton and other notorious criminals from profiting from their crimes through sales of books and other memorabilia.

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said the proposed law will allow the government to take revenue earned from publications by criminals and distribute it to victims and their families.

The former Mountie vowed swift action last February when a book reportedly written by Pickton was briefly listed for sale on the Amazon website.

“This legislation is aimed at preventing criminals from profiting from recounting their crimes,” Morris said as he introduced the proposed law Thursday.

“As government we have a responsibility to protect victims and their families, and it’s unacceptable that murderers or others convicted of serious crimes could attempt to benefit from the pain and suffering they have caused others.”

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Morris said the proposed law will apply to criminals convicted of serious or violent crimes including murder, sexual offences, child exploitation, kidnapping, drug trafficking and human trafficking.

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He said criminals cannot be banned from telling their stories due to constitutional reasons, but the law would prevent them from gaining financially from their stories.

Pickton, 66, is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murders of six women and is being held at Kent maximum security prison near Agassiz, B.C., about 120 kilometres east of Vancouver.

The 144-page book titled “Pickton: In His Own Words” was removed from the Amazon site after a public uproar.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons then that the Correctional Service of Canada was investigating how the manuscript got out.

Outskirts Press, which published the book, apologized to the victims’ families for the additional heartache the book may have caused.

Last year, the company was pressured to pull Ontario killer Paul Bernardo’s fictional ebook about the Russian Mafia and al-Qaida.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia have similar legislation.

The proposed B.C. law would require people with contracts to recount notorious crimes to contact the government about the terms of their contract. It would also prevent offenders from assigning rights to another person, including a spouse, friend or relative.

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The Public Safety Ministry said the law would apply to verbal or written contracts signed since Jan. 1, 2001 to cover when Pickton was charged.

People who have caused harm should not be allowed to profit from their crimes, said a victims services spokeswoman.

“When there is an appetite for one side of a sad story told from an offender’s perspective, the victims and those impacted are often re-victimized, both by what the offender has to say and the public’s curiosity,” said Carolyn Sinclair, executive director of Police Victims Services of B.C.

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