WINNIPEG, MB: Due to the overwhelming response from the media and the public, the Miller family and a spokesperson from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection will be available for interviews today.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection would also like to provide a statement on our position on managing the specific population of child sex offenders who have committed multiple offences against children. With the aim of protecting children, our agency would like to see the following changes:
- Sentencing that properly reflects the egregious nature of the crimes and the number of victims. While the courts are gaining a better understanding of the impact of sexual offences against children, sentences are increasing only incrementally and in a manner that is often inconsistent with sentences imposed for similarly violent crimes. For example, a serious home invasion generally results in a 7 to 10 year prison sentence, whereas the starting point for a sentence involving what the court deems to be a “major” or “serious” sexual assault of a child is 4 to 5 years. Also, those offenders who commit multiple offences and/or have multiple victims can benefit from a sentencing principle known as totality. The application of this principle can sometimes result in a sentence that is disproportionate when one takes into account the number of victims and the gravity of the offending behaviour.
Recognizing the importance, and limitations, of risk assessments. Risk assessments are often conducted to help the court assess the degree of risk posed by an offender, determine an appropriate sentence and impose conditions that can meaningfully reduce the risk of harm coming to another child. Unfortunately, the limitations of the data upon which such risk assessment instruments are based is not always appreciated or well understood. While an assessment that an individual is “high risk” is very relevant and must be acted upon, an offender may not be come out as “high risk” on a standard risk assessment until after s/he has offended against multiple victims. A more comprehensive assessment of the offender, and of the nature and type of offending behaviour, would assist in identifying those offenders who may benefit from more intensive interventions at an earlier stage.
It is important to note that the motivational pathways that drive those who sexually offend against children differ in significant ways from those that drive other types of offenders.
- Conditions imposed upon offenders need to be strictly enforced. Other conditions are often imposed in addition to jail time. These conditions are purposeful and intended to mitigate risk and reduce opportunities for re-offence. In order to prevent relapse, such conditions are extremely important and directly correlate with the effective protection of children. Breaches of such conditions can be an early warning sign of increasing risk and should therefore be taken seriously and be addressed immediately.
“Our agency believes the emphasis needs to be on better using the tools we have at our disposal to manage and monitor these individuals more effectively. It is unreasonable to expect moms and dads to prevent these atrocities from happening,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “We commend Zachary Miller and the entire Miller family for their strength to find their voices and their courage to speak publicly about Zachary’s abduction and sexual abuse at the hands of Peter Whitmore.”
In addition to the above, and specifically to assist victims, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection would also like to see changes to the Criminal Code to facilitate the lifting of publication bans by victims who are now adults. Publication bans are put in place to protect children from being identified in media. While the process to put the ban in place is set out in the Criminal Code, there is no specified process to lift the ban. Once a victim becomes an adult, that victim should be able to easily reclaim her/his voice without the need for a complicated court process. The ability of victims to share their experience may not only be personally healing, but in many cases would help to improve our collective understanding of the long-lasting impact of abuse on survivors.