In the fall of 1995, we circulated a petition in Fort Frances and Northwestern Ontario. It was directed to the National Parole Board requesting that parole be denied to Neil Scott Soutar, convicted of brutally raping two young women in Fort Frances. At the time, he was the director of IVIK Youth Services here.
In the first case, he was found guilty by a jury and received three-and-a-half years. In the second, he plea-bargained a three-year sentence, to be served concurrently in prison.
Under Canadian law, he was able to apply for parole in February, 1996 after serving only one-third of this sentence, and that was the reason for the petition. We felt strongly that justice had not been served in such a short time, and that this sexual offender should not be allowed out.
We understood at the time that we had two months in which to gather the signatures, in order to meet the six-week deadline before February hearing. Very quickly, we were able to see results, and ended up with over 3,100 signatures that we forwarded to the National Parole Board office. As well, numerous letters were sent by concerned individuals expressing their support in seeing justice continuing.
All correspondence then became part of this offender’s permanent file.
The wheels of the justice system tend to turn slowly but they do turn, so after several postponements, his parole hearing finally was held in June, 1996. At this time, the National Parole Board members ruled he was too great a risk to reoffend while on parole and, therefore, parole was denied. He was to remain incarcerated until his mandatory release at two-thirds of his sentence (in April, 1997).
In late 1996, we received notification that Corrections Canada had “concerns” regarding this felon, and had requested a hearing with the National Parole Board to discuss his mandatory release and the possibility of detention until the end of his sentence.
Again, there were postponements, but the detention hearing was held in April of this year. After the meeting and deliberations, the board ruled that Soutar would be “likely to commit an offence causing serious harm to another person” before the expiration of his sentence, and therefore must remain incarcerated until it is completed in 1998.
This decision is a critical victory for so many people, proving that ordinary citizens can indeed make a difference in the struggle for justice. We believe that the interest and concern of the citizens in Northwestern Ontario played an important part in these decisions, and helped to keep this dangerous perpetrator off the streets for some time to come. So many people deserve appreciation in this matter; we would like to acknowledge and thank:
oThe victims, who suffered so terribly, and yet showed incredible strength and resolve in coming forward. Their struggle for justice was long and painful, but their determination and courage was an exemplary source of inspiration to all who supported them;
oThe families and friends, who were there at all times. They provided, without hesitation, the necessary comfort, support and energy in a long search for justice;
oThe Crisis Centre in Fort Frances and the Koochiching Sexual Assault Centre in International Falls, Mn. Their tireless workers provided support, compassion and so much relevant information. They were present from the beginning of the legal process through to the finish, helping wherever they saw a need.
oThe police, particularly Rick Schell, the dedicated and diligent Assistant Crown Attorneys, the wise and humane judges, and the courthouse employees. All of these people toiled with competence, respect and discretion;
oCorrections Canada, which is comprised of regular, caring people. They conducted their business in a professional and knowledgeable manner, yet were approachable and helpful. It was obvious that they had worked extremely hard on this particular case, and were very thorough in their assessments of this perpetrator;
oThe National Parole Board, which also has real people working within its walls. The woman with whom we dealt was knowledgeable and forthcoming with all information allowed by law. The petition and letters were acknowledged fairly promptly, and anyone who requested a reply received one;
oThe National Parole Board members who conducted the hearings. Each was astute, articulate and probing with all questions and comments. It was clear they were well-prepared to handle these hearings, doing so in a professional and humane manner. The panel was able to weigh the petition and letters in their deliberations. Although we don’t know what the outcome would have been without the public’s support, we do know what it could have been;
oThe business owners and managers in Fort Frances and the surrounding area. These people helped by allowing signatures to be obtained in their businesses, and/or displaying copies of the petition on their counters. Our business community should be proud of its role against violence and injustice in supporting this important undertaking. You deserve much credit;
oThe people in this area. You proved beyond a doubt that all of us can make a difference. Your signatures and letters truly were important to the National Parole Board in their assessment of this case, and to Corrections Canada as part of their evaluation; and
oLastly, those who shared with us their personal tragedies. We urge you to come forward but understand if you cannot. The legal road is long and difficult but justice is possible and closure is necessary.
If you do come forward, we hope you will be treated with the honour and respect victims of violence deserve. Violence in any form is a crime against the very essence of its victims and should not be tolerated. No one has the right to do anything to you without your consent. We wish you the best of luck and much courage.
Once more, many thanks to all who supported this cause.
Walter and Susan Horban,