VANCOUVER — A Federal Court judge has overturned a parole board condition that bars Robert Latimer from travelling freely outside Canada without pre-approval.
In a ruling released Tuesday, Judge Michael Manson concluded there is nothing to indicate the 60-year-old Saskatchewan farmer should be prevented from leaving the country or that he poses a danger to society.
“I cannot discern any basis for the appeal board to find that Mr. Latimer poses any risk to any persons inside or outside of Canada, or that an elimination of reporting requirements for international travel would present any real risk to public safety or adversely affect the protection of society,” he said in the written ruling.
Manson has ordered the parole board’s appeal division to reconsider the case.
Latimer was convicted in 1997 of the second-degree murder of his 12-year-old daughter Tracy by piping exhaust into the cab of his truck on the family farm in Wilkie, Sask.
Tracy Latimer had severe cerebral palsy, and Latimer has always said he wanted to end her agony.
He was sentenced to life in prison and released on full parole, with some conditions, in 2010.
In June 2013, a parole board panel denied Latimer’s request to leave Canada without having to apply first for a limited-time passport.
Latimer appealed the decision in November of that year but the ban was upheld by the appeal board so he applied for a judicial review. His application was heard in Federal Court in Vancouver two weeks ago.
Manson said in his decision that the parole board is supposed to consider the least restrictive release possible for an offender.
He said the board and its appeal division did not exercise discretion in Latimer’s case in a reasonable manner, given that his parole team had determined Latimer has demonstrated positive behaviour in the community, poses limited risks of reoffending and has always complied with his parole conditions.
“That finding … and after considering all relevant information, leads me to conclude that the board and appeal board did not exercise their broad discretion in a reasonable, transparent or intelligible manner,” Manson said.
“The board and appeal board cannot exercise discretion based on an arbitrary or punitive basis.”
The Attorney General of Canada had argued the travel ban was warranted because positive assessments from Latimer’s parole team don’t necessarily outweigh the gravity of his crime, the court document said.
It also said the parole board’s decision not to lift Latimer’s travel ban is within the “range of acceptable outcomes available to the board in light of the relevant information of the applicant’s case.”
Latimer’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, said he is pleased with the Federal Court decision because he believes his client poses no risk to public safety.
“It’s just a situation where Mr. Latimer has complied with every restriction placed on him for 20 years, whether it’s bail conditions or institutional setting or parole condition,” he said in an interview. “There’s just nothing to fear from Mr. Latimer.”
Should the parole board lift the travel restriction, Latimer would inform his parole officer about any travel plans and maintain contact by phone when he’s abroad, Gratl said.
He said Latimer is “quite delighted” with Tuesday’s court decision, and if the travel ban is lifted, he will likely go to Central America because of his interest in ancient ruins.