After the release of convicted child sex offender Cyle Larsen in Edmonton on Monday, the question about how many crimes it takes to keep dangerous predators behind bars is being raised.
The Edmonton Police Service has issued multiple warnings about convicted sex offender Larsen and officers believe he’s at risk of reoffending.
Dating back at least five years, Global News Edmonton has been reporting on Larsen’s arrests for sexual offences and his release back into the community multiple times after reoffending.
Every single time he’s been released, a warning from police to the public has descriptions including:
- sexual offender who poses risk of significant harm to the community
- long history of deviant behaviour
- will commit another sexual offence against someone under 16
- warning about high-risk sex offender being released
In 2008, Larsen was convicted for the sexual interference of a six-year-old. In another case, a 10-year-old was lured to a basement and sexually assaulted. Parole board documents have accused him of preying on children for his sexual satisfaction.
Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said all EPS can control is trying to stop the reoffence from happening.
“I think it’s one of the bigger issues in the justice system that we have to address overall because how many times is enough before there (are) some serious implications?” McFee said Tuesday.
“At what point is he rehabilitated? Is it after the third offence, fourth offence, fifth offence? That’s not really clear… We don’t have a role in relation to that release other than sometimes being consulted and advised.”
‘A revolving door’
Michael Cooper, MP for St. Albert-Edmonton, thinks we need to look at ways to strengthen criminal laws and mandatory jail time to keep repeat offenders like Larsen in prison.
“It keeps happening because, unfortunately, our laws are not keeping dangerous criminals behind bars — that’s really the bottom line. It is a revolving door,” Cooper said.
“Unless you’re designated a dangerous offender or subject to a long-term supervision order, the fact is far too many individuals who are dangerous are let out onto the street.”
Cooper said being designated a dangerous offender has a high threshold.
“Fewer than 1,000 offenders have been designated as a dangerous offender since 1978, even though 90 per cent of dangerous offenders are sex offenders. Right now, it is a Criminal Code offence if you, for example, breach a term of bail but it is not a Criminal Code offence if you breach a term of your parole. That needs to change.” Cooper said.
“I am hearing a lot of frustration from the public who see this as a revolving door, and rightfully so. Any offender who targets a child is a threat to all children in our community, and it speaks to the need to strengthen our criminal justice system to hold these types of offenders accountable.”
Throughout a sentence, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is responsible for preparing offenders for parole consideration by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC).
In a statement to Global News, the CSC said: “All offenders must be considered for some form of conditional release during their sentence, in accordance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). When making recommendations for conditional release to the PBC, CSC ensures that public safety is the paramount consideration.”
The CSC said a number of factors help determine an offender’s risk of public safety.
“Factors such as the nature and gravity of the offence(s), the offender’s degree of responsibility, their level of engagement with their correctional plan, the availability of support in the community, victim concerns, Indigenous social history (if applicable), and recent professional opinions such as those from health care, mental health, and police comments, in addition to any previous CSC and PBC decisions,” it said.
“All of these factors are combined in a recommendation to the PBC, (which) has exclusive authority to grant both day parole and full parole. The PBC bases parole on information and assessments that CSC prepares.”
There are exceptional circumstances, the CSC said.
“An inmate is detained past their statutory release when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the inmate is likely to commit one or more of the following before the end of their sentence: an offence causing serious harm or death, a sexual offence involving a child or a serious drug offence,” it said.
In response to Global News’ question about when enough is enough regarding repeat offenders being released and what it takes to people like Larsen behind bars, Blaise Boehmer — the senior press secretary for the justice and solicitor general — said: “The EPS described Cyle Larsen as ‘an untreated child sexual offender who poses a risk of significant harm to the community.’ The government of Alberta respects the professional judgment of the EPS, and we also agree that more must be done by the federal government to protect communities by making it easier for police and prosecutors to designate dangerous offenders.”
The PBC has exclusive authority under the CCRA to grant, deny or revoke parole.
In a statement to Global News about why high-risk offenders are let out of prison, the board wrote: “The decision-making process is very systematic and highly structured.”
“The risk assessment process focuses on three major components: the offenders’ past (behaviour and criminal history), present (how the offender’s behaviour has changed) and future (release plan, community support and supervision strategies),” it said.
Larsen was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre and will reside in the Edmonton area while being monitored by police. He must also follow several probation conditions.