By Jennifer Saltman, The Province
A convicted killer who was allowed to apply for early parole under the “faint hope clause” was granted day parole last month.
Brian Gerald West, 66, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and conspiracy in connection with the 1993 death of 19-year-old Sian Simmonds. To date, he has served 23 years behind bars.
In May 2013, a jury decided that even though West was sentenced to life with no parole eligibility for 25 years, he could apply for early parole under the faint hope clause, or section 745.6 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
The section allows offenders serving a life sentence with a parole ineligibility period of more than 15 years to apply for parole after serving 15 years in prison. It was repealed on Dec. 2, 2011, but remains available to those sentenced before that date.
In 1991, Simmonds and her older sister Katie complained to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., alleging misconduct by their family doctor, Josephakis Charalambous.
A hearing was scheduled for March 1993, and Charalambous planned to have the sisters killed so they could not testify.
He enlisted West, a longtime associate, to hire a hit man. West — who claims he did not know the victim and thought he was hiring someone to assault her, not kill her — hired David Schlender, who owed him more than $5,000 for cocaine.
On Jan. 27, 1993, Schlender went to the basement suite Simmonds shared with her sister, claiming he had accidentally scratched her car. While inside her home, Schlender shot and bludgeoned Simmonds. Katie was not home at the time.
Schlender admitted to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 20 years. He died in prison in January 2006. Charalambous was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy and was given the same sentence as West.
During his time in prison, West has completed a number of steps toward rehabilitation.
The parole board decision states that he completed his correctional plan, was compliant with institutional rules, maintained a job, made meaningful contributions to prisoner advocacy programs, has been treated for a drug addiction and has successfully completed monthly escorted temporary absences for the past two years. He has spousal and family support.
West’s most recent psychological assessment notes that his current risk to reoffend is at the low-to-moderate level, a reduction in risk from past assessments.
West’s case management team supported his application for day parole as a next step toward community reintegration, and noted that he has no institutional programming needs and his current risk level does not require incarceration.
Four members of Simmonds’s family read out victim-impact statements at the hearing that described their “ongoing heartfelt pain and suffering and harm.”
West’s institutional parole officer noted “that you have developed a high level of insight into your offending, take responsibility and have expressed shame and remorse for your involvement in the index offence,” although he does minimize some facts of the crime.
West has been accepted into a number of halfway houses in the Lower Mainland. When he is released, he plans to be retire, but wants to learn about computer repair.
Conditions imposed on West’s day parole include not to consume drugs or alcohol, participate in one-on-one-counselling, avoid people involved in criminal activity or substance abuse and have no contact with the Simmonds family.
His day parole will be reviewed in six months.