Paul Bernardo’s day-parole hearing scheduled for March; victims’ families ‘gutted’

File photo: Paul Bernardo sits in the back of a police cruiser as he leaves a hearing in St. Catharines, Ont., April 5, 1994. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — The families of two school girls brutally raped and killed by Paul Bernardo say the notorious killer’s application for day parole is “gut wrenching.”

Bernardo is scheduled for a day-parole hearing next March.

Tim Danson, the lawyer for the families of Bernardo’s murder victims, 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and 15-year-old Kristen French, is confident Bernardo will never be granted parole.

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“I believe he will die in prison,” Danson said. “But we take nothing for granted and will be vigilant responding to Bernardo every step of the way.”

Bernardo was sentenced in 1995 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for raping and murdering Mahaffy and French. He was also given dangerous offender status – and received an indeterminate sentence – after admitting to raping 14 other women.

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“They are gutted – this is gut-wrenching for the Frenchs and the Mahaffys,” Danson said.

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He said Bernardo has been scheduled for day-parole hearings on several occasions since he applied last year, but each one has been adjourned.

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Bernardo became eligible for day parole on Feb. 17, 2015, according to Parole Board of Canada spokesperson Holly Knowles. He is eligible for full parole in 2018.

Dangerous offenders will not be conditionally released by the parole board “unless and until they are deemed to be no longer an undue risk to the community,” Knowles said.

While she couldn’t comment on the details of Bernardo’s case, citing privacy laws, she said a dangerous offender designation will play a part of the parole board’s decision-making process, along with psychological assessments, victim impact statements and other information available to them.

Danson said he is currently working with the Frenchs and Mahaffys on victim impact statements if and when Bernardo ever appears before the parole board.

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