There may be 3,500 psychopaths behind bars in Canada’s prisons, roughly one quarter the male penitentiary population, according to researchers. They are conscienceless predators and manipulators driven only by a desire for self-gratification. Until recently, Don Gazley (inset) was among them. Gazley (listen to him, after the jump, in manipulation mode, in Episode 4 of the Cancrime podcast) has a two-decade history of sex crimes and involvement in a murder. He’s been diagnosed a “classic psychopath” who poses a high risk to commit new sex crimes. Yet Gazley was released in early January from a penitentiary in British Columbia, in part, because the top legal official in Ontario, where he was last sentenced, chose not to seek to keep him locked up forever through a dangerous offender designation. Gazley’s treatment by the criminal justice system isn’t unusual. A Canadian expert on psychopaths, forensic psychologist Stephen Porter, says the system must take psychopathy “much more seriously.” His research reveals that, although psychopathy is one of the most powerful predictors of criminal recidivism, psychopaths win conditional release 2.5 times more often than non psychopaths.
Porter believes psychopaths get out of prison early, in part, because they fool decision makers with “Academy-award winning” emotional performances (Porter explains this, in more detail, in the podcast). He calls psychopaths “emotional chameleons” that are expert at faking feelings, yet they feel virtually no true emotion themselves. They lack empathy and remorse, are selfish, callous, impulsive and manipulative. One psychopath can cause widespread destruction. Serial child killer Clifford Olson, who murdered at least 11 children, and serial rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo, are two infamous Canadian psychopaths. Olson scored 38 out of 40 on a psychopathy test developed by noted Canadian researcher Robert Hare.
Although professionals have good tools, like Hare’s test, to identify psychopaths and we know well the horrible damage they can inflict, each year, only a handful of psychopaths are declared dangerous offenders. It’s a legal designation that permits authorities to keep a criminal locked up until he’s deemed no longer a danger to society. In practice, most dangerous offenders are never released and die behind bars. Authorities have been far more willing to use another measure in criminal law, a far less restrictive tactic, with dangerous and persistent criminals. A long-term supervision order, which can last for 10 years, can be imposed. It permits authorities to attempt to monitor and control an offender when his sentence expires and he’s free in the community.
Gazley, 55, is subject to a 10-year long-term supervision order that was imposed when he was sentenced in Ottawa, Ontario in 2008 to eight years in prison for sex crimes involving a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy with a learning disability. Ontario’s Attorney General declined to seek a dangerous offender designation for Gazley, even though the 2008 convictions were part of a two-decade pattern of sex crimes against children and vulnerable adults and long after he was first diagnosed as a psychopath. At his sentencing in 2008, ever the manipulator, Gazley sobbed and pleaded with the judge to be lenient, claiming that the sentence wasn’t what he had agreed to in a plea bargain. The judge ignored Gazley.
Gazley’s sentence expired on January 4, 2016 and that’s why he had to be released from prison. In the years leading up to the expiry of his penitentiary term, he had fought for early release but was repeatedly turned down because of warnings by professionals that he still posed a high risk to commit new sex crimes (read about his failed attempts for early release in parole documents below.)
The Parole Board of Canada imposed seven conditions on Gazley’s long-term supervision order, including the requirement that he live at a halfway house for 180 days. The parole records don’t reveal where Gazley was sent, but in earlier parole hearings he had asked for permission to return to Ontario, where he has family. He’s also barred from being in the presence of any boys or girls under age 18 unless accompanied by an approved adult who knows his criminal history. He was ordered to report to his parole supervisor all relationships and friendships with anyone who has parental responsibility for children under the age of 18 and he must participate in counselling.
If Gazley violates his conditions, a parole officer can issue a warrant suspending his parole. Gazley would be taken into custody. The officer can choose, very quickly, to cancel the suspension or he can send a report to the parole board, which will hold a hearing. The board can cancel the suspension or recommend to a Crown attorney that charges be filed against him for breaching his parole conditions. A conviction for violating parole conditions carries a maximum sentence of two years in penitentiary. If Gazley were returned to custody after a conviction, the clock on his 10-year supervision order stops counting down.
I have interviewed Gazley dozens of times. I’m not sure anything he ever said, to me – or for that matter, to psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers, and police officers – was the whole truth. Gazley is a ceaseless liar and manipulator. In 2002, Gazley testified at the murder trial of his friend James Wall that he “lied almost … all the time,” until he had a signed deal with authorities for a lenient sentence for his involvement in the murder in exchange for his testimony against Wall. Wall was convicted on Gazley’s testimony, which was the only evidence that linked Wall to the crime. In an interview after the trial, Gazley told me: “I know I’m not a true psychopath because I have feelings about this.” He also told me, cryptically, that there was “more to the story” of the murder, though he refused to elaborate.
One of Gazley’s familiar patterns of offending was to hire young girls, typically around age 13, to babysit his young son. Once in his home, the girls would be offered drugs and alcohol and pressured to perform sex acts. After I wrote about Gazley’s conviction in 2008 on sex charges in Ottawa, he called from behind bars to complain about how he feared the coverage would hurt his then-teenage son and other family members who lived in Ontario. In yet another remarkable moment of emotional manipulation, Gazley asked if I had my “pound of flesh,” accusing me of exploiting his misfortune in a way that hurt others (Listen to this exchange with Gazley in Episode 4 of the podcast, embedded here and available on iTunes).
Below are the written records of five separate Parole Board of Canada decisions involving Gazley between 2013 and 2016. The details of the conditions imposed on his 10-year long-term supervision order appear in the final record, pages 21- 24: