Free pass for McDonald's killer outrages victim's family

A Cape Breton woman is outraged that the man who killed her brother at a McDonald's in 1992 has permission to leave prison unescorted for short periods of time.

Public safety minister says justice system must change

A Cape Breton woman is outraged that the man who killed her brother at a McDonald's in 1992 has permission to leave prison unescorted for short periods of time.

Cathy Burroughs says Darren Muise has been "playing the system" to get out of prison.

"In the last five years I have seen Darren Muise four times. He still to this day has absolutely no remorse for what he's done," she told CBC News on Wednesday.

Muise was 18 when he pleaded guilty to killing Neil Burroughs in a botched robbery at the McDonald's restaurant in Sydney River, N.S. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years.

Burroughs was shot, beaten with a bat and had his throat slit. Two other McDonald's employees, James Fagan and Donna Warren, were killed that night. A fourth worker, Arlene MacNeil, was permanently injured.

The other two men convicted in the killings, Freeman MacNeil and Derek Wood, are serving life sentences with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

No reason given for parole board decision

Earlier this week, the National Parole Board allowed Muise, now 35, to receive temporary passes. He may leave a Quebec prison by himself for 24 hours each month. If he abides by the rules for two months, that will increase to 48 hours.

The parole board hasn't yet released its reasons for expanding Muise's privileges. Since 2007, he has received 16 escorted temporary passes.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said he "vehemently" disagrees with the parole board's decision.

"The government believes Canadians want to see convicted murderers serve their full sentences behind bars," he said in an email statement. "Unfortunately, the criminal justice system we inherited from the Liberal party allows for this sort of early release.

"We've consistently stated that we want to reform the criminal justice system to put the rights of victims before the rights of the criminal," he added, noting that the Conservatives have introduced legislation in the House of Commons that seeks to have the seriousness of an offender's crime be considered in parole board decisions.

'I will never forgive them'

Burroughs was in Laval, Que., with several other family members for the board's decision. She said her sister prepared a victim impact statement, but the board didn't hear from anyone.

Burroughs said Muise should never be allowed out of prison. For such horrendous crimes as this, she said, killers should receive consecutive prison terms.

However, a national organization for prisoner's rights says that's not the answer.

Craig Jones, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said long sentences serve the victims of crime but don't help to rehabilitate criminals.

"There's this famous expression that we use that prison is an expensive place to make bad criminals worse," Jones said.

Burroughs said her family is suffering a life sentence of grief.

"I will never forgive them," she said. "Do I hate them? More than life itself."