By COLIN FREEZE
Toronto Globe and Mail
November 21, 2005
"I don't think anybody has ever done this before," said Bob Ens, who runs a Kelowna, B.C., halfway house where one such plan is being tried out. "It's very unique ... any time (the pedophile) leaves the facility, he's under supervision."
The Globe and Mail has learned that handlers are being used in at least two cases involving pedophiles in British Columbia who have recently completed their jail terms, and yet are still regarded as extremely dangerous predators. Believing these men will assault children again if left to their own devices, officials have secured court mandates for handlers as an extraordinary measure to protect the public.
"We're setting precedents right now," said Brian Lang, Correctional Service Canada's director of Community Corrections for the Pacific Region. Lang has worked with halfway-house officials to set the terms of a court order in the case of Shaun Deacon, a 40-year-old repeat offender who has spent the bulk of his adult life in prison.
"We watch the Deacon case with a lot of interest because - however it turns out - (it) will affect our ability to manage people like him. . . . it's unique in my experience."
Federal officials complain that overly lenient laws are causing judges to slap "long-term supervision orders" on certain high-risk sex offenders who have been handed short-term jail sentences. Even though they've served their time, these criminals still have major public-safety concerns lingering around their cases. This has prompted correctional authorities to get creative with how they apply the law.
In the case of Deacon, most of the halfway houses in British Columbia rejected him as too risky a prospect, before officials with the Okanagan Halfway House Society in Kelowna agreed to take him one year ago. They did this on the condition he be kept on very short leash.
"If you were to put him in the community unsupervised for half an hour, he'd reoffend," said Ens, the society's executive director. "I think his risk is extremely, extremely high."
Despite fears that he may reoffend, Deacon has never been officially declared a dangerous offender or been handed the indefinite jail sentence that designation would bring.
Instead, a judge meted out a three-year sentence for his most recent attack, and then imposed a 10-year supervision order that took effect after his release in November 2004.
As part of that order, Deacon must stay away from children, live in a halfway house, take libido-reducing drugs every day, and - in a highly unusual and invasive restriction - have handlers shadow him whenever he goes out.
Such supervisory orders are distinct from probation and parole since the offenders have, in theory, already served their debts to society. Terms can change over time, but as things now stand, Deacon is constantly in the company of one of two taxpayer-funded minders who get paid $20 an hour to shadow him in 12-hour shifts seven days a week to ensure he doesn't attack another child.
They go with him when he meets his parole officer, when he does odd jobs in the community, even when he grabs a bite with a friend. "I go out for coffee with him and usually his sidekick is with him," says family friend Richard Page, who sometimes meets Deacon - and his handler - at the local Tim Hortons.
Page, who has struggled to support Deacon in and out of jail, says the handlers are, sadly, probably necessary. He also finds them pretty discreet. "You'd never know. We're all in civilian clothes . . . you'd think we're three buddies from work."
Deacon has launched a court battle to lift some of the more onerous terms of his supervision order. He argues that they infringe on his rights. Deacon's lawyer, Garth Barrihre, refused to comment on the case.
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