SURREY – Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner learned about the release of yet another high-risk sex offender into Surrey by chance, reading a tickertape news feed across the bottom of her television screen.
"That’s how I found out," she said, after the Ministry of Justice, Corrections Branch sent out a public notification Monday that highrisk convicted child molester James Conway, 40, has been released from prison and plans to live in Surrey.
"I’m so furious," the mayor said. Even she doesn’t know where Conway will be residing. Hepner noted Surrey is "still reeling" from the last time a high-risk sex offender was released into Surrey after serving his sentence.
She was referring to Raymond Lee Caissie, who, after his release into the city on June 14, 2013, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch.
A Surrey Search and Rescue team found Vermeersch’s body near railway tracks in the 14600-block of 66th Avenue, on Sept. 16, 2014. Caissie’s next appearance in Surrey provincial court is set for Feb. 20.
The Corrections Branch had issued a public notification bulletin on June 14, 2013, about Caissie, warning that the "high-risk sexual and violent offender" was "currently on bail supervision" and living in Surrey.
At the time, then-mayor Dianne Watts predicted Caissie would reoffend, and expressed outrage that he’d been released into her community. The public seemingly forgot about Caissie until his arrest for murder 15 months later.
At the time of his release, Caissie already had a criminal history of sexual assault with
a weapon, forcible confinement, robbery and other crimes.
The public notification said he would be "subject to close monitoring by authorities" and had to abide by 12 court-ordered conditions.
Conway – according to his public notification – is "subject to close monitoring by authorities and 27 court-ordered conditions."
Conway’s criminal history includes sexual interference of a person under 16, sexual assault, arson damaging property, and breaching court orders.
"He has maintained a versatile pattern of sexual offending against female children in a predatory and opportunistic manner," his public notification states.
Conway is an imposing six feet, four inches tall and 276 pounds. He’s white with brown hair and blue eyes.
"It really disappoints me," Hepner said of his release into Surrey. "If it were my decision, it wouldn’t happen. Everybody needs to be asking the question, going into the election for the feds, where do they stand on this?" Jasbir Sandhu, New Democrat MP for Surrey North, said Conway should be subject to "foolproof" and "absolutely zerotolerance" 24-hour monitoring. He called the situation "crazy." "Clearly this guy is dangerous," Sandhu said. "I’m very concerned as a father. Safety should be a number-one concern for any government."
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet said police officers on every watch, including those working in specialized sections, will be briefed on Conway.
"We will monitor this fellow and so will the Surrey Probation Office, working together to ensure Conway is abiding by all of his conditions," Paquet said.
"We’ll do our due diligence," he added, "monitoring him as much as we legally can."
According to the public notification, Conway’s conditions include not engaging in any activity that involves contact with people under the age of 18, including communicating with them on computer.
He must also not volunteer, or work, in a position of trust involving minors and is prohibited from "attending or being within" any public park, playground, school, child daycare centre, community centre, public swimming area "or other sites including churches which offer activities for children or where children under 18 years may congregate."
Conway must also not possess alcohol or controlled substances in any public place, must abide by a daily curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and not wear any uniforms, "including but not limited to firemen’s uniforms, corrections uniforms, search/rescue uniforms, police uniforms, security guard uniforms, or scrubs."
Anyone observing a violation of these conditions is asked to contact police.