Balancing Karla Homolka's rights and the public's right to know
When it comes to balancing the rights of a person who has served their time for a crime and the rights of the public, experts say the law provides some clarity but doesn't provide all the answers.
Karla Homolka served her full 12-year sentence for her role in the murders of teenagers Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. The legal chapter of her life is closed.
“She’s free to parent and take her children to school and go about her life free from being harassed or vilified because of what she'd done in the past,” said lawyer Eric Sutton.
Back in 2005, authorities attempted to monitor Homolka with a peace bond, which stated among other things that she had to notify police of her address and who she lives with. A Quebec court lifted the restrictions weeks after they were imposed.
Even though during her incarceration she had been deemed a high risk to reoffend, a forensic psychologist says research sheds some light on the risk of recidivism.
“What we found is that women who have been detected and sanctioned for a sexual crime like the case we're talking about now- the odds that they're going to commit a new sexual crimes is incredibly small,” said Franca Cortoni of the Université de Montréal. The data, she said, shows only 1.5 per cent will commit a new sexual crime.
“This doesn't mean that the society, the community isn't going to have a lot of strong emotional reactions that are absolutely, totally understandable,” she said.
When it comes to the debate over the public’s right to know, lawyer and former broadcaster Paula Todd, who once tracked Homolka down when she was living in Guadeloupe and wrote a book, says Homolka's children deserve peace. Even so, she said she believes people have the right to know who lives in their community.
“Do we have the right to vigilantism? I've known where Karla Homolka was for at least three years and that she was back in Quebec. I didn't go to find her,” she said.
Tim Danson, the lawyer who represented the families of victims Kristen French and Lesley Mahaffey, said he can relate to the different perspectives.
“If it was my kids living in the neighbourhood or going to the school i would certainly be concerned and I’d want to know. … And on the other side of the equation, which is a difficult proposition, is simply that, her children are innocent and they have a right to a normal life,” he said.