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(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Mar. 12, 2007)

Justice System breaches contract – again


  By John Martin

The public hounding of balcony rapist, Paul Callow, should be a wake-up call to criminal justice legislators.

Having being denied parole numerous times, the serial rapist was released after serving his twenty-year sentence.  This alone warns we are dealing with one dangerous predator.

A gathering of Surrey citizens, horrified that Callow was living among them, drove him out of town.  He moved to New Westminster where a hundred locals rallied in an attempt to chase him out of that community as well.

While some sympathetic observers correctly note, “he has to live somewhere,” residents are understandably outraged that a high-risk offender has relocated to their neighborhood.

But this is much more than an issue of individual rights versus public safety.

It is an indicator the social contract is not being lived up to.

A reason we have laws and a criminal justice system is that, long ago, we all agreed these were preferable to blood feuds and mob justice.  We, the citizenry agreed to forfeit some rights and grant the state a monopoly on the use of force.  In return, that state would ensure public order and collective safety.

Consequently, the crown prosecutes and punishes the guilty rather than leaving retribution in the hands of the victim or public.

This is a wise arrangement and it can be argued that the social contract has worked rather well.  Until recently.

While no one is advocating a return to mob justice, the state clearly is no longer honoring the terms of the contract.

People convicted of random violence, often leaving the victim disfigured and disabled for life, are unlikely to spend more than a few months in jail, if at all.  Even those convicted of homicide are often handed house arrest.

Offenders with fifty convictions are put on probation and released to continue making our lives miserable.  Chronic offenders, who have committed literally thousands of crimes, are given a warning by a judge not to do it again.

Acts of vigilantism and mob justice are far and few between in this country.  We would all do well to ensure it stays that way.

But as frustration mounts with a justice system that cowers at the mere thought of taking the worst of the worst out of circulation, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see citizens taking a stand.

Callow was convicted of raping five women at knifepoint.  He has admitted to another 21 rapes.  Twenty years later he is untreated and still a relatively young man.  By all accounts, it’s a virtual slam-dunk he will re-offend.

This is not alarmist fear mongering.  These are the facts.

Not only has justice not been served, but the social contract, once again, has been breached.

And unless something changes, public rallies with signs and petitions may just be the beginning.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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