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CANADA ON GUARD FOR RELEASE OF SEX-SLAYING FIGURE

When Karla Homolka steps free from a Montreal-area penitentiary on July 5, her 12-year sentence complete, she will be placed under "the strictest conditions possible" through a special Quebec court order, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant vowed last week.

Bryant would not specify what restrictions he had in mind for Homolka, convicted in 1993 in the horrific sex slayings of Ontario schoolgirls Leslie Mahaffy, of Burlington, and Kristen French, of St. Catharines. Nor was it clear how long they might stay in place.

But he listed a range of options available under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, adding that should Homolka leave Quebec after her release, justice officials in every province and territory are unanimously agreed about keeping her on a short leash and in plain view.

"This arrangement is without precedent in Canada," Bryant said. "No matter where she goes, no matter what she does . . . we will be one step ahead of her."

Toronto lawyer Tim Danson, longtime adviser to the Mahaffy and French families, said his clients welcomed Bryant's initiative and will seek a role in it. Atop the families' priority list will be their need to know at all times where Homolka is living, he said.

"We're very pleased; this is encouraging," Danson said.

In what amounts to a preventive measure, the Criminal Code's Section 810 permits such high-risk individuals to be placed under recognizance orders, issued by a judge and valid for up to a year in the province or territory where they are issued. Violating them means up to a year in prison.

On July 5 -- the date that would have marked Leslie's 29th birthday -- Homolka will have served every day of her manslaughter sentence. When she leaves Joliette penitentiary, 62 miles north of Montreal, a protracted media circus seems likely to follow her wherever she goes.

Now 34, she was spared a murder conviction and life imprisonment because she testified against her husband, serial rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo, 40. He is serving life in Kingston Penitentiary and has been designated a dangerous offender.

Only after authorities signed the hugely controversial deal with Homolka did a videotape emerge showing that far from being forced to take part in the slayings, as she insisted, she had willingly participated.

Also ominous was last December's assessment by the National Parole Board. Homolka was not a good candidate for early release because she was likely to offend again, the board concluded.

A team of Ontario prosecutors and police will travel to Quebec in mid-June and seek to persuade a provincial court that Homolka merits such restrictions.

Most commonly applied to sex offenders, the restrictions often prescribe where the person can go and with whom he or she can associate. They also call for regular contact with police. The individual can be subject to a curfew and be prohibited from using alcohol and nonprescription drugs.

Most importantly, recognizance orders usually compel the subject to keep authorities notified of his or her address and of any plans to change it.

"This is not just to restrain; it's to monitor," Bryant said.

But he was vague on whether the public would be kept apprised of Homolka's whereabouts.

"If it is appropriate to release that information, once I have spoken to the victims, I will do that," he said.

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