Serena Vermeersch case: Christy Clark says Caissie 'could have been kept in jail'
Premier joins Peter MacKay, Dianne Watts, Kash Heed in call for changes to Canadian laws
B.C. Premier Christy Clark is weighing in on the case of murdered teen Serena Vermeersch, saying that she believes some violent high-risk offenders should never be released.
"I'm not an advocate for 'lock 'em up, throw away the key' justice, but I think there are exceptions to that," she told CBC Radio One's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition today.
There is no amount of monitoring that is as good as keeping someone behind bars.- B.C. Premier Christy Clark
Clark was reacting to the news that 43-year-old Raymond Lee Caissie, who was released in 2013 after serving 22 years in prison for a violent sexual assault, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of the 17-year-old girl.
Vermeersch's body was found Tuesday evening last week by railroad tracks in East Newton, along the path she would take to walk home from her bus stop.
Though Caissie has yet to go to trial, the possibility that he could be the person responsible for Vermeersch's death has prompted some tough talk from the premier and other leaders in B.C. and across the country.
"I think he could have been kept in jail," Clark said.
"On what grounds?" CBC's Rick Cluff asked.
"This is the thing. We can review how we monitor offenders like that… but ultimately, the only way to prevent dangerous repeat offenders from committing other crimes is to not let them out into the community," Clark said. "There is no amount of monitoring that is as good as keeping someone behind bars."
Clark's comments echoed the goal federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay expressed following question period yesterday.
"We’re looking at ways in which the very worst, those who are most violent, those who have committed offences, murder, in concert with other violent offences against the public and the individual, that they’re never released," MacKay said.
The laws need to be changed.- Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said she had "significant concerns" when Caissie was released into her community last year, given the likelihood that he could reoffend.
Despite what the law says, Watts said someone with that risk "can't be released."
"The general public, their safety has to come first and foremost. I don't know how you can get around that. Right now the laws don't permit that, so therefore the laws need to be changed," she said.
Kash Heed, a former B.C. police chief who also served as B.C.'s solicitor general, also said Tuesday that someone with Caissie's level of risk should "absolutely not" have been released.
You are not going to find a [more] tragic incident, a finer example of the laws in Canada that need to be changed.- Kash Heed, former B.C. solicitor general
"Every indication was previously was that he was going to reoffend," Heed said. "The indications [came] from Crown counsel, from the trial judge, from the Appeal Court judge — even by his own admission that he was more comfortable in jail than out in the community."
Heed said that he wasn't sure whether a "dangerous offender" process was brought in for Caissie's case, but he said there are gaps in that process.
"You are not going to find a [more] tragic incident, a finer example of the laws in Canada that need to be changed when we deal with these sexual predators that cause havoc in society," he said.
But former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, speaking with CBC News Wednesday, said the task of identifying those "worst" offenders remains a problem.
"You can't in the absence of any kind of compelling evidence, start to take criminal proceedings against a person who has already served his or her sentence. And that's the real dilemma that you have here in a democracy," he said.