How a thief wanted across Canada can avoid arrest in London, Ont.

Donald John Cameron, currently wanted in several provinces including Ontario on mostly theft-related charges, has been working and residing in London, Ont., avoiding arrest through a justice system that's made it easier for him to do so.

Donald John Cameron declined to speak to CBC News about his outstanding warrants

Donald John Cameron appears in a courtroom in St. John's, N.L. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Donald John Cameron is a wanted man.

There are currently active warrants for the 53-year-old in Sudbury Ont., Campbell River B.C., and Halifax N.S., mostly related to theft and fraud charges.

But it's unlikely Cameron, who now lives in London, Ont., will have to face those charges in a court of law. 

Some say Cameron is able to avoid prosecution thanks to a justice system that makes it "easy" to do so.

Cameron has about 100 convictions spread out across Canada stemming from crimes dating back to the 1980s, including several in the city he now calls home. 

Veteran police officer Rick Robson, who heads up the London Police Association, said some career criminals have figured out the system.

"People with criminal pasts tend to get educated about the system and use that to their advantage," said Robson.

One way to do it, Robson said, is to move just far enough away from the jurisdiction that's issued the arrest warrant. Though it's not always that simple.

It's driven by the severity of the crime and in this case, we felt it didn't meet the threshold- Const . John MacLeod , Halifax  Regional Police

According to authorities in Campbell River B.C., where Cameron is wanted for theft-related charges, police were notified that he was in Ontario back in 2015 but chose not to extend the warrant.

Authorities in Halifax N.S., where Cameron is wanted on several fraud-related charges, also chose not to extend the warrant.

"We could go and bring the person back to Halifax," said Const. John MacLeod from that city's police force. "But it's driven by the severity of the crime and in this case, we felt it didn't meet the threshold."     

When contacted for comment, Cameron said he would not speak to CBC News at the advice of his lawyer. 

CBC News contacted Cameron's legal counsel who did not provide comment.

Released from a St. John's jail this year

Cameron relocated to London earlier this year after serving a six-month prison sentence in St. John's, N.L. The convictions there were for fraud, stealing a car and possession of stolen goods.

He had been working in London as a supervisor of a restaurant. Cameron earlier told CBC News that his criminal past is behind him and he's trying to move on with his life.

For Cameron, some of his outstanding warrants have a 400 km range that's determined by the court in which the offence allegedly took place. Some of his other warrants have a province-wide return radius.

The drive between Sudbury, where he's wanted, and London is more than 500 km, is outside the so-called "return radius."

For more serious crimes, Robson said the radius could be Canada-wide, noting it depends on the severity of the offence, among other factors.

What power do local authorities have?

Information about any wanted individual is placed in a Canada-wide searchable engine available to police services.

Unless local authorities are somehow notified that a wanted individual is residing in their city, it's difficult to make an arrest, and the difficulty is compounded by the return radius.

If a wanted individual is arrested by or comes in contact with police for an unrelated matter, officers can still make an arrest on the basis of that warrant and then contact the jurisdiction in which the accused is wanted in.

"We would contact the jurisdiction which holds the original warrant and see if they would be willing to return [the individual]. That matter would entail them attending the London Police Station or the London Police Service attending theirs. Sometimes we meet half way," London Const. Michelle Romano said as an example.

"That radius is a guideline. We would still and could still notify that agency that 'hey this guy is living in London'. Maybe they could make extenuating circumstances; maybe they have officers attending this area that they would want to effect that arrest," she added.

London police said it can only publicly speak about individuals who have been arrested and, in Cameron's case, there have been no arrests.

Cost a consideration

An individual could also be transferred through the jail system or their charges could even be transferred through the court system.

A big part of the process comes down to cost and resources, said Robson. The regional Crown's office of the city in which a warrant is issued is not only responsible for approving that application but also partially for the financial payment of the transportation of wanted individuals.