Canada Family, Burns Lake community fear release of accused killer

10:06  03 december  2017
10:06  03 december  2017 Source:   Vancouver Sun

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Residents of a northern B.C. town are afraid and outraged that an accused killer has been granted bail and allowed to return to his community to await trial.

“The community is in fear,” said Steven Bishop, the younger brother of Raymond Bishop, who was found shot to death on the south side of Francois Lake in Southbank on May 18. “Everyone feels demoralized. We wonder if this is the system we support. We’re voters, but we feel silent and neglected.”

Albert Giesbrecht, 66, is charged with the first-degree murder of 59-year-old Bishop. Last week, a judge in B.C. provincial court in Smithers granted bail for Giesbrecht. He was released from custody on Thursday morning and arrived at his home in Burns Lake, which is a ferry ride and about 24 kilometres from Southbank, later that day.

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Giesbrecht is subject to 22 conditions. They include house arrest, not using the internet or a cellphone, not possessing firearms, weapons, drugs and alcohol, and not being in a vehicle without court-appointed escorts. His bail was set at $75,000 and two people acted as sureties.

Steven Bishop doesn’t believe the conditions are enough.

“He’s not free, but he’s in the community,” he said. “The only thing between him and us is a piece of paper. There’s no protection from a piece of paper.”

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad raised the issue during question period in the B.C. legislature on Thursday, saying Giesbrecht’s release is concerning for the victim’s family and everyone in the Burns Lake area.

“How this judge can make a decision like this is beyond me,” he said. “However, my constituents are rightfully anxious that this individual will be permitted back into the community.”

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Jennifer Petersen, whose aunt was married to Giesbrecht, called for justice for Bishop in a Facebook post this week. She called the shooting “unthinkable, unfathomable, horrific” and described Bishop as an amazing man.

“I am terrified what bail will bring to our community,” Petersen wrote.

On Thursday, about 40 people protested the bail decision at the intersection of Petersen Road and Highway 16 in Burns Lake. Bishop’s brother and daughter attended. It was a solemn affair, and Steve Bishop said many people told him that they were afraid to show up.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said on Friday that his office is taking Giesbrecht’s release very seriously.

“I have made it clear that it is my expectation is that if there is any violation for whatever reason of any of these conditions, then he is picked up and put in a cell and not released,” he said.

Farnworth said that this kind of pretrial release for murder suspects is rare.

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“That’s why we were very surprised, and that’s also why Crown is looking at how to appeal the release, as well as the bail conditions,” he said.

According to figures from the ministry of attorney general, during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 40 people were charged with first- or second-degree murder in B.C. Five of them were released on bail.

Another case in which a murder suspect was granted bail is that of Dustin Blue Robert Moir, who was charged with first-degree murder in the 2005 death of 14-year-old Chelsy Acorn.

Moir was on bail, with his mother acting as surety, while he awaited both his first and second trials.

In the first instance, he was released on $200,000 bail. He was taken into custody after his conviction and was in prison for more than three years. Moir appealed and was once again released on a $200,000 bail to await his second trial. He was jailed less than a year later after being accused of breaching his conditions.

Moir was convicted of first-degree murder in March 2017.

Steven Bishop would like to see the laws changed, so those charged with murder cannot receive bail. He said Giesbrecht will be able to spend Christmas with his family, but his brother won’t see his family again.

He described Bishop as a gentle, helpful person who loved the outdoors and fast cars. Bishop leaves behind his mother, brother, two children and a grandchild.

“He was a wonderful guy, he had a loving family. They’re devastated by this, as we all are,” said Steven Bishop, adding that his 78-year-old mom is particularly affected. “She’s taking this very hard and she’s had health issues from it. She sounds demoralized. Everyone’s mad and sad and outraged.”

jensaltman@postmedia.com

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