A married Bernardo not guaranteed conjugal visits 0
Paul Bernardo leaves court in police van on last day of trial before verdict. (Sun File Photo)
TORONTO -- Paul Bernardo could get married while in prison, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'd be consummating it with a conjugal visit, according to a criminal lawyer.
"The argument could certainly be made, but it's not an automatic right," Toronto lawyer Shane Martinez said Thursday. "Every situation is unique and has to be scrutinized on its own.
"Just because two people are married doesn't mean they automatically have a right to private family visits."
Conjugal visits - private visits from spouses during which sexual intercourse is permitted -- are covered under the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) "Private Family Visits" policy.
But if Bernardo were to marry, he would have to be put through some hoops before his bride would be allowed to see him privately.
According to the CSC, inmates are eligible for private family visits unless they are at risk for family violence, are in or recommended or approved for transfer to maximum-security prison among other reasons.
In terms of visitors, immediate family and someone "with whom the inmate has a close personal relationship" are eligible for conjugal visits.
There is a subsection that defines personal relationship as someone who "contributed significantly to the moral or spiritual development of the other" or "both individuals shared significant life experiences that resulted in an enduring bond of friendship and trust."
So, could the 30-year-old London, Ont., penpal use those criteria as leverage to be intimate with her alleged soon-to-be-hubby?
"That eligibility can be constrained by larger consideration for security of the institution and the security of the person visiting as well," Martinez said. "Especially if it was a person - not naming any names - who CSC thought there may be some mental health issues involved.
"They may make a determination it would be unsafe for that person to enter that kind of environment and place any restrictions they thought would be appropriate."
CSC officials would also look at whether the visit would be for the commission to commit an offence - that is, things being smuggled in and out of prison.
If the application is approved, each visit could last up to 72 hours, once every two months, the lawyer said.
Martinez added that a decision could be grieved by an inmate but the court often gives deference to the federal agency if the reasons are "safety rooted in the security of the institution."
"Bernardo would be a rare exception where CSC may in fact restrict that person's ability to have one of these visits if they make the determination it's simply not appropriate," he noted.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Steven Blaney could not be reached Thursday and NDP opposition critic Randall Garrison declined comment.
CSC spokesman Sara Parkes confirmed that, while she couldn't speak specifically about Bernardo's case due to privacy issues, having a spouse does not automatically give a free pass to private family visits and that inmates must complete an application form for the program that "CSC thoroughly assesses before making a decision."
But there is no restriction for marriage, even when it comes to convicted schoolgirl killers.