News broke today that infamous serial killer and sexual torturer Paul Bernardo is selling a self-published e-book on Amazon.com. Billed as a ‘spy thriller,’ the 631-page A MAD World Order went on sale June 25th – netting Bernardo about $6 a copy.
Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender for the horrific rape and murder of two teenage girls, and is serving a life sentence in an Ontario prison.
But should such a notorious killer be able to make money while he’s behind bars for his crimes?
Lynda Steele spoke with criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind today to dig down into the issue.
Is it legal?
Moral issues aside, does Bernardo even have the right to do this?
According to Goldkind, he does – because even though the book is violent, it doesn’t touch on his real-world crimes.
“There is a 2002 piece of legislation in Ontario, and the idea was if you’re a convicted criminal, you cannot profit off the recounting of your own crimes, you can’t make a dollar for example by selling a screenplay or a script talking about what you did. Corrections Canada has no legal right or remedy to Censor his material or not let it come out of jail.”
Goldkind says even though the book is reportedly extremely violent, Bernardo’s charter rights mean he can still say what he wants.
“He has what every Canadian has, even when you’re behind bars and never going to smell the same air as we’re going to smell. He as a right to talk about anything that he wants of a creative nature.”
On top of that, Goldkind says there’s no way to stop Bernardo from profiting either.
“Believe it or not, he would keep every cent.”
He says there are only two reasonable avenues the government could pursue: A forfeiture complaint, or proceeds of crime laws.
“One, it would be a complete stretch for the government to do it, and I don’t think they would do it. And two I think they would probably lose miserably. That money is going into Mr. Bernardo’s pocket, from anybody unusual enough to buy that book.”
Amazon and the moral question
How did something like this get published? Should Amazon share some responsibility in this?
The e-book was self-published on Amazon.com, and Goldkind says he doubts Amazon knew what was going on.
“My guess is Amazon had no clue, couldn’t have cared less who Paul Bernardo was. After all of the media attention today, I expect Amazon to take it down probably tomorrow. I don’t think they’re going to want this fallout.”
But he says while he thinks the social media furor will doom the book, that might not be the best answer in the end.
“My view – don’t take Paul Bernardo’s book down. Stand for freedom of expression. We live in a society where freedom of expression means the most particularly when people hate it. My view, Lynda, of what should happen is nobody should buy this. Let it die an empty death.”
“Yeah, except there’s weirdos in the world who will buy it just because they’re weirdos … and they’ll maybe be even people who want to get inside is mind and find out more about him.”