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Dangerous offender up for parole after just 3 years

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David Bobbitt, second from left, is pictured in a 2013 file photo taken by The Penticton Herald.

Only three years after being declared a dangerous offender and “the very definition of a psychopath,” David Bobbitt became eligible for parole, according to documents obtained by the Okanagan Saturday.

Bobbitt was handed an indeterminate prison sentence in March 2015 resulting from the sexual assault and confinement of a woman and her toddler son inside his second-hand store in downtown Penticton in 2011. He was arrested four days after the incident and has been in custody since.

But despite facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars, Bobbitt became a candidate for release in July 2018, and had his case considered again just last week.

“A dangerous offender serving an indeterminate sentence is required by law to be reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada seven years after the offender entered custody,” the board said in a statement.

“Should they be denied parole they are entitled to a legislated review every two years thereafter, as per… the Criminal Code of Canada.”

Conservative MP Dan Albas said he’s concerned about the effects those regular hearings will have on Bobbitt’s victim.

“I’m very concerned by the very real cost to the victim and her family being re-victimized through this process,” said Albas, who represents Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

“As a Conservative, I want to make sure women, wherever they are in Canada, can walk safely knowing the law has their back.”

Albas’s party was still in power in 2015, when one of its signature justice reforms, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, came into force. The MP said he will now take a fresh look at the file in light of Bobbitt’s case.

“I’m going to personally research further to see if there’s a way to make sure re-victimization doesn’t happen,” said Albas, who’s also a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As difficult as the prospect of parole may be for victims, a B.C. prisoners’ advocate said it actually helps protect the public.

“Being eligible for consideration of conditional release to the community is important so that prisoners do not lose hope that they will be able to re-enter society one day. If they had no hope, they would have no reason to address the issues that led to their offences,” Jennifer Metcalfe, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, said in an email.

“The vast majority of prisoners have experienced trauma in their lives, including high rates of childhood abuse. If they are able to receive mental health services to allow them to understand and heal from their own trauma, they will be more likely to understand their own offences and the impact their actions had on others.”

Metcalfe emphasized it’s the parole board that makes the final decision on release, and it wouldn’t allow an offender to simply walk away from prison with no strings attached.

“Research shows that people are less likely to re-offend when they have a period of community supervision as part of their sentences. Allowing people to re-enter society while under the supervision of a parole officer can help them to get re-established in the community successfully without returning to crime,” added Metcalfe.

Bobbitt, now 44, still presents too big a risk to society to be released, according to the parole board.

“Mr. Bobbitt, your actions have resulted in permanent physical and psychological injuries to your victim. It would be difficult to categorize your offences as anything but cruel, vicious and sadistic. You held the victim and her child hostage for a number of hours while you systematically tortured, sexually assaulted and threatened to kill her,” a review panel wrote in its decision July 16, a copy of which was obtained by the Okanagan Saturday.

“The fact that you have not taken any steps towards acknowledging your role in the index offence and that you fail to demonstrate even a modicum of remorse is both disturbing and indicative of your inability or unwillingness to take the steps required to address your risk factors.”

Bobbitt’s dangerous offender hearing was told the victim, who was 22 at the time, suffered lacerations to her scalp that totalled 53 centimetres in length, and required a blood transfusion and multiple surgeries afterwards. Her son was unharmed, but found wearing a T-shirt soaked with his mother’s blood.

The ordeal lasted about 16 hours, and only came to an end when a family member spotted the woman’s car in front of Bobbitt’s shop and called police.

Bobbitt fled before Mounties arrived, triggering a manhunt that ended in an orchard south of Oliver.

To prove the pattern of violent behaviour necessary to have Bobbitt declared a dangerous offender, the Crown relied on a similar attack he perpetrated on a different woman in Penticton in 2007 that didn’t result in charges.

“I find that Mr. Bobbitt is the very definition of a psychopath,” now-retired judge Peter Rogers concluded in his March 2015 decision declaring Bobbitt a dangerous offender.

A psychological assessment completed in February 2020 for the parole review found Bobbitt’s mental health hasn’t improved while behind bars.

“It must be noted . . . that the presence of strongly psychopathic traits will likely limit his ability to benefit from programming and progress is likely to be slow, and as a consequence, his risk to the community is unlikely to be manageable within the foreseeable future,” states a portion of the assessment.

Bobbitt, who didn’t attend either of his parole reviews, was set at one point to be transferred from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security institution, but declined the move after claiming he would “probably kill someone” in the new facility, according to the parole decision. He has also declined sex-offender treatment, except for one course in 2016.

“Mr. Bobbitt, in addition to your refusal to leave the maximum-security environment, your lack of participation in core programming designed to mitigate your risk factors, your assessed high potential for violent offending and moderate to high risk for sexual offending, the board concludes that your risk is undue and denies full and day parole,” the panel concluded.

“In your case, the board concludes that your sentence is being administrated in accordance with your assessed risk, and reflects the lack of progress you have made related to those identified factors, which contributed to your index offence.... The board finds your continued incarceration has not become grossly disproportionate to your case.”

Bobbitt was one of 734 dangerous offenders in custody across the country as of March 31, 2019, according to the most recent data available from the Correctional Service of Canada.

Dangerous offender designations were created in law in 1977, although indeterminate sentences were first made available in Canada in 1947.