Court orders parole board to reconsider Robert Latimer’s bid for expanded parole

Robert Latimer has won a partial victory in his bid for looser parole conditions.

OTTAWA — Robert Latimer has won a partial victory in his bid for looser parole conditions.

The National Parole Board has been ordered to immediately revisit its decision denying an expansion of parole.

A Federal Court judge says the board failed to follow its own legally binding principles — most notably that the paramount consideration for a person’s release be the protection of society.

Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his severely disabled daughter, an act he described as a mercy killing.

The Saskatchewan farmer is now living at a halfway house in Victoria and has consistently been found to be at “very low” risk of reoffending.

He spends five nights a week at the halfway house and two nights in his Victoria apartment, but has applied to reverse those numbers.

The parole board ruled that it could only expand Latimer’s day parole under “exceptional circumstances” and found that his case did not meet that threshold.

Latimer appealed, and Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish ruled this month that the parole board’s insistence on “exceptional circumstances” improperly fettered its own discretion in assessing parole conditions.

“In particular it is inconsistent with the principle that, in achieving the purpose of conditional release, parole boards are to make the least restrictive determination consistent with the protection of society,” the judge wrote, citing the board’s statutory principles.

Mactavish ordered the board to reassess Latimer’s application without considering the “exceptional circumstances” caveat in the board’s non-binding policy manual.

The judge noted Latimer is eligible for full day parole in December and so ordered the parole board to reassess his situation on an expedited basis so that “it may be of some practical benefit to him.”

Latimer was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 and was granted partial parole in February 2008.