Justice system needs re-evaluation
To the Editor,
I first wrote about Garry Handlen when he was arrested in Minden in November 2014. I was a reporter for the Minden Times at the time and Handlen was charged in the death of 12-year-old Monica Jack, who was murdered in British Columbia in the 1970s (although her remains were not found until 1995). I followed the case for some time and even after I left the paper (which occurred before his trial started) I stayed on top of the story, mostly out of personal interest.
I was not surprised that he was found guilty by a jury and will (likely) be sentenced to life in prison, but shocked when I read news reports of his criminal past, which included multiple rape convictions throughout the 1960s and 1970s. What the jury did not hear was that Handlen had a history of sexual violence that went back as far as 1963 (as reported by the Vancouver Sun). His first conviction came in 1969, when he assaulted a woman with a knife, then another in 1971, 1977 and 1978. All of these convictions led to sentences, but some were shortened through appeals and mandatory supervision. According to the Vancouver Sun, it was while his 1978 conviction was proceeding that he murdered Jack. *Note Handlen has also been charged in the death of an 11-year-old girl who went missing in B.C. around the same time as Jack.
Words cannot describe how incredibly sad all of this is to think about. A man with a known criminal record (and a lengthy list of convictions), continuously gets released from prison only to be a repeat offender, graduating from a serial rapist to murderer. One of his former victims was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying Handlen was on bail when Jack was murdered. This thought sent chills down my spine and made me wonder why a repeat sexual assault offender would even be allowed to be out on bail? That 12-year-old girl’s death could have and should have been prevented if the justice system was working the way it should. It is cases such as this that lead me to believe more work needs to be done around recognizing the severity of sexual assault cases and the charges that are subsequently laid. Jack’s family deserves at least this and nothing less. My thoughts go out to them.
Former reporter for the Minden Times/Haliburton Echo