Weapons charges withdrawn against Paul Bernardo in Napanee court

Fergus O'Connor (centre), lawyer for Paul Bernardo, speaks with reporters outside the Napanee court. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme
Beaver Staff

Paul Bernardo made a brief video link appearance in Napanee’s Ontario Court of Justice Friday morning to answer to a weapons possession charge.

The trial was short however as the Crown opened by informing judge Geoff Griffin that they would be withdrawing the charge, citing they didn’t have sufficient grounds to seek a conviction.

Bernardo was arrested in February when a homemade ‘shank’, revealed to be a two inch deck screw attached to the end of a ballpoint pen, had been found inside his cell. Bernardo had appeared once on the matter via video in May as part of a pretrial, where he expressed a desire to have this matter resolved prior to his next parole hearing later this month. Bernardo is up for parole as he approaches the 25 year mark of his life imprisonment conviction that was handed down on Sept. 1, 1995.

When asked if he understood the crown was dropping the weapons possession charges Bernardo responded via video link from Millhaven Institution “Yes, thank you your honour” and declined an opportunity to speak any further on the matter.

Outside the courtroom Bernardo’s lawyer, Kingston based Fergus O’Connor, answered questions to a scrum of about 10 reporters.

“He’s committed some terrible crimes, he’s taken full responsibility but he’s worked on his own self improvement and self awareness over 25 years,” O’Connor said of Bernardo.

O’Connor didn’t deny that a weapon was found in Bernardo’s cell, but noted it would have been impossible to prove Bernardo himself made it as several guards and prisoners also have access to his cell.

“He’s reviled not just by the people out of jail but the people in jail,” said O’Connor, saying part of his defense was that the weapon could have been planted by someone else. “The alternative that (Bernardo) didn’t know it was there was a reasonable alternative.”

O’Connor told the court that Bernardo continues to receive visits from his parents and continues to work with a counsellor.

“The rule of law must prevail,” O’Connor said when asked of his client’s chances at parole. “The issue is not just desserts, the issue is risk. The Parole Board of Canada will assess his risk based on all factors. They’ll consider his crimes but also consider the fact he’s now in his mid-50s, he committed his crimes in his mid 20s and he’s been of good behaviour.”

Bernardo, who was branded the Scarborough Rapist during the span of March 1986 to April 1992, was convicted of the murders of Tammy Homolka, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French as well as more than 13 rapes.

He served the first 20 years of his sentence at Kingston Penitentiary and in 2013 was transferred to Bath’s Millhaven Institution. O’Connor says Bernardo is segregated from other inmates and any programs he takes part in has been tailored by the prison staff to reflect that fact.

“He’s very realistic,” O’Connor said of Bernardo’s expectations of being granted parole, which is rare in the case of a convict that has been branded a dangerous offender. “The way I would put it, and I say this to all my clients, I’m not predicting the outcome. I’m only putting the best case forward for my client. There’s no mistaking they’re very horrific crimes that he’s committed. He’s as horrified as you and I am. But the fact is over 25 years he’s experienced personal growth.”

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