Politics
Toews vows to shut 'back door' after early release of convicted cop killer

Elaine Rose Cece, left, and Mary Barbara Taylor.

Credits: Credits: Ilustration by Pam Davies

CHRIS DOUCETTE | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - Canada's public safety minister is vowing to shut the "back door" that allowed convicted cop killer Rose Cece to bypass the parole board and leave a British Columbia prison this week after serving barely 14 years of her life sentence.

The 54-year-old, who stabbed Toronto police Const. Billy Hancox to death in 1998, was released to a halfway house Wednesday by the warden at Fraser Valley Institution for Women, a stunning decision that was brought to light in the Toronto Sun.

"While I can't comment on specific cases, individuals deemed ineligible for parole should not be given conditional release that is tantamount to release through a back door," Toews said Thursday. "I have asked (Correctional Service of Canada) Commissioner Don Head for options to ensure that decisions of the Parole Board of Canada are given full effect, both in letter and in spirit."

Under current legislation the warden at the Abbotsford prison, Carol-Ann Reynen, was able to grant Cece four escorted day passes in December, 2011, even though the parole board denied such a request 18 months earlier.

The same warden recently approved a 60-day work release, which effectively granted Cece day parole several months before her scheduled parole hearing.

The head of the Toronto Police Association was so upset by the move he travelled to Ottawa Thursday to voice his outrage to Toews.

"It's absolutely disgusting," TPA president Mike McCormick said. "What's the point of having a parole board if wardens are able to usurp the system?"

After a "meaningful meeting" with Toews, he was pleased to learn the minister had agreed to look into the issue.

Cece and her then-girlfriend Mary Barbara Taylor were both convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and given life sentences. Taylor is still in the Joliet prison in Quebec.

Retired Toronto homicide detective Rolf Prisor, who helped put Cece and Taylor behind bars, said the behind-the-scenes decision to grant one of the killers early release was "a slap in the face" to the dead officer's family, especially his widow, Kim Hancox-Spencer, who was nine-months pregnant when her husband was slain.

"When you look at the circumstances, how cold and calculated this murder was, it's hard to believe someone could walk out of prison after just 14 years," Prisor said.

The decision is even more shocking considering Cece was the one who "plunged the knife into (Hancox) chest" as the plainclothes officer sat in a parked van at a plaza, said Prisor.

-- With files from Joe Warmington

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