MANDEL: The farce of a Paul Bernardo parole hearing

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It began with the most understated opening imaginable by a delusional double murderer and serial rapist.

“Good morning, my name is Paul Bernardo. I’m here to apply for parole.”

He was denied, of course. As he should be.

But this farce meant enduring a hearing of more than two-and-a-half hours, the subjection of his victims’ families to the endless drivel spewed from his self-serving mouth and the gut-wrenching realization that the sexual sadist will put them through it all again in two years time.

“Our decision today is to deny day parole and full parole,” said board member Maureen Gauci after deliberating less than an hour. “Your understanding and insight remains limited and as a result … you remain to be a high risk for sexual reoffending.”

With no sign of emotion, Bernardo donned his blue hospital mask and shut off the monitor to return to his cell, and plot his next attempt.

This was Bernardo’s second try at parole after serving 28 years of his life sentence for the rape and murder of school girls Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15. Once again, the designated dangerous offender and his lawyer were the only ones advocating for his release; Correctional Services of Canada and the many psychiatrists who have examined him were firmly against it.

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According to his parole officer, Bernardo has made no progress since his last hearing in October 2018 where he was found to pose an undue risk to society. The officer said the maximum-security offender remains a high-risk sex offender who isn’t a good candidate for community release.

Bernardo was anxious to respond.

Dressed in a blue T-shirt, doughy and pale, Bernardo, 56, came armed with a sheaf of papers as he offered a rambling, self-absorbed, jargon-filled 30-minute soliloquy on why he is a changed man and yet so misunderstood.

For all his torrent of words, though, Bernardo once again demonstrated how he remains an empty imposter of a real human being.

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Like reading from a psychology textbook, he blamed his spree of violent sexual crimes on being “a male chauvinist pig” who viewed women, especially virgins, as sex objects meant to obey his every demand. First as a Peeping Tom, then the Scarborough Rapist who terrorized 14 women, and then, with the help of his former wife Karla Homolka, he graduated to being a killer of young girls.

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Yes, he lied under oath at his 1995 trial and denied killing Kristen and Leslie, but that was out of anger that his subservient wife had bested him by winning a sweetheart deal while he was looking at life in prison. Now he “sincerely” apologizes for putting their families through the “sickening and horrifying ordeal” of watching the videotapes he’d recorded of their rape and torture.

Bernardo claimed the pain and humiliation he inflicted wasn’t out of sexual sadism but as punishment for their not submitting to his will. As her poor parents listened, no doubt in agony, Bernardo even had the nerve to use Kristen’s defiance as an example.

Getting caught “was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he claimed. Now he could get the help he needed. There was that blip in 2014 when a romantic relationship triggered his sexual deviancy, but she’s history and he’s now back in control.

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Every day, he does the work at self-management. He prays. He practises mindfulness. He doesn’t allow himself to indulge in sexual fantasies or masturbation. He no longer objectifies women as vessels for his own entitled enjoyment.

Not that he’s enrolled in any kind of institutional program since his last parole bid. This is his own self-practice, and he’s a master at it. Just ask him. He’s achieved “an extraordinary level of restraint.”

Despite the side effects, Bernardo is even willing to take medication to drive down his sex drive for the sake of public safety — that’s just the kind of “virtuous” man he’s become. He’d like to move to an Ontario halfway house to be near his elderly parents but as a sacrifice for his victims, he’s willing to move as far as Kelowna, B.C. where he’s prepared to take any menial job, even picking fruit.

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What a guy.

The skeptical two-member board asked his opinion about the risk he poses. Bernardo didn’t hesitate: “Without a doubt, low risk because I’ve stopped all sexual deviant behaviour.”

Gauci challenged him on his stunning assertion — isn’t it rather easy to control your sexual violence against women when you’ve been locked up for 28 years?

No, he’s a changed man, Bernardo insisted. He even has empathy now for his many victims. “The last parole hearing, I cried almost the whole time. I have a lot of empathy for what I did.”

But as always, Bernardo mostly has empathy for himself.

He claims he’s the victim of “cruel and unusual punishment” because he’s been kept in segregation for decades — for his own protection.

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After what this kidnapper, rapist, and killer inflicted on helpless victims begging for mercy, he has the audacity to speak of unfair treatment?

Bernardo complains that he’s been forced to suffer stress and anxiety for more than 10,000 days. We can only hope it will be 10,000 more.

‘Another violation, another loss’ for victim’s mom

It was a decision at the last minute to turn her camera on and allow her daughter’s killer to see her pain during the virtual parole hearing.

Once again, Donna French managed to deliver her anguished victim impact statement. But marking 30 years this month since Bernardo tortured, killed, and dismembered her daughter, Debbie Mahaffy had to turn to her lawyer to deliver her words.

“It feels like another exhumation, another violation, another loss,” Tim Danson said on her behalf.

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“What does resting in peace mean when we have to relive these horrors every two or so years for the rest of our lives?” she asked. “This unnecessary re-victimization must stop. At a minimum, parole hearings for offenders like Paul Bernardo should be at least five years apart.”

Donna French echoed that plea.

“It seems that just as the ink had dried on our previous victim impact statement, Doug and I have to muster up the strength to prepare a second statement.”

And so they are forced to revisit the agony that they have worked so hard to control. “For those who say that time heals, they don’t know the excruciating pain that comes from such a horrific loss,” she said. “Time doesn’t heal the pain; the pain is a life sentence.”

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  1. Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee on October 5, 2018.

    Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo again denied parole

  2. Leslie Mahaffy, 14,

    MANDEL: 30 years since Paul Bernardo’s murder of Leslie Mahaffy

  3. Schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo, right.

    Schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo set to have parole hearing

They must accept what happened to their precious daughter, but will never accept that he could be free to do this again to another innocent girl. “A psychopath must never be allowed in a position where he repeats his atrocities.”

One of the women raped by Bernardo in 1988 begged the board not to release him. “I hate him for what he did to me,” she said. “I want him to get the help he needs, and then I want him to rot in jail.”

mmandel@postmedia.com

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