Offender’s release sends chill through Penticton neighbourhood

RCMP issue warning that high-risk sex offender has moved to Penticton

RCMP have issued a warning that convicted sex offender Donald Bakker is now living in Penticton.

RCMP have issued a warning that convicted sex offender Donald Bakker is now living in Penticton.

He may have paid his debt to society, but a high-risk sex offender who this week moved to Penticton has created worries for his new neighbours in a south-end mobile home park.

There are, however, some tools at the Crown’s disposal to mitigate the ongoing risk posed by Donald Michel Bakker, 48, whose parole documents describe  as a “sadistic” offender, despite good behaviour behind bars that he attributed to having become a Christian.


Neighbours notified

Neighbours who spoke to the Western News on Wednesday said they were notified of Bakker’s presence on Monday night by an unidentified man who distributed copies of an RCMP news release.

Although none would go on record, residents expressed worries about their new neighbour, who they said is living with his parents. A woman at the family home identified herself as the cleaning lady, and said no one else was there at the time. The Western News did not receive a response to a note left to request comment from Bakker.

The manager of the 55-plus mobile home park also declined comment.


Court-imposed public safety

Although the five-foot-six, 155-pound Bakker finished his full 10-year sentence on June 1, he must still abide by temporary, court-imposed conditions until a formal hearing on July 4.

Among other things, he is prohibited him from visiting any places where children are known to congregate; possessing recording equipment or pornography; accessing the Internet; and having contact with sex workers. He must also abide by a nightly curfew except to work.

At the July hearing, the Crown will argue that Bakker should be placed on a peace bond to keep similar conditions in place for a maximum of two years. The Crown may seek to have such an order renewed every two years, and a breach can result in a maximum one-year jail sentence.

B.C. Criminal Justice Branch spokesperson Roger Cutler said about 40 such orders are sought each year for inmates who finish their jail sentences but are felt by case workers to “remain a risk to the community.”

When the orders are granted, it’s usually up to local police to monitor the offender, although other community members can assist.

“There can be a number of people dealing with them on a regular basis, (who) are all looking for signs of an individual who may be entering their crime cycle,” Cutler said.

But he was unable to say why the Crown didn’t seek dangerous offender status, which comes with an indefinite jail sentence, for Bakker when he was before the courts in 2005. The sentencing judge, however, suggested there were some holes in the case.


Caught on video

Brutal details of Bakker’s crimes are contained in the transcript of his sentence hearing on June 2, 2005 in Vancouver, in front of provincial court Judge Joseph Galati.

Bakker pleaded guilty to 10 charges: one count of sexual assault and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm on three Vancouver sex workers; and seven counts of invitation to sexual touching on Cambodian girls between the ages of seven and 12.

The adult sex workers bore the brunt of his sadistic tendencies. Bakker whipped one of the women’s naked buttocks with an electrical cord, and wore hiking boots when he kicked another victim’s vagina several times. The Cambodian girls, meanwhile, were filmed performing oral sex on Bakker. He had gone to the country under the guise of doing charity work.

His crimes were revealed on two videotapes he made that were found inside his car when police searched it on Dec. 9, 2003. At the time of his arrest, he had been employed for 16 years at Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel.

Judge Galati noted some difficulties with the Crown’s case, because the sex workers “consented, at least initially, to the acts,” and because the victims were drug addicts, who wouldn’t have made “perfect witnesses.”

Bakker’s guilty pleas, which spared his victims the difficulty of testifying at trial, and lack of a criminal record were also mitigating factors.

The judge went along with the 10-year sentence proposed in a joint submission by the Crown and defence, and gave Bakker double credit for 18 months pre-sentence custody, leaving seven years new time to serve.

Galati noted in his reasons that Bakker’s lawyer told the court his client, who had maintained a relationship with his wife and child, “will take such treatment as is made available to him while in custody.”

Such treatment was made available, but Bakker never took it.


Parole board says ‘No’

According to documents obtained from the National Parole Board, Bakker was denied early release in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In its final set of reasons for denial, dated July 20, 2011, the board concluded Bakker was “likely to commit an offence causing the death of, or serious harm to, another person” if released early.

The decision referenced a June 2011 assessment that found he “demonstrated a long-standing proclivity towards the sadistic and degrading sexual abuse of vulnerable females.” It goes on to say Bakker had yet to complete any recommended programming and was considered “an untreated sex offender with a high risk to reoffend.”

Numerous sex offender treatment programs were made available to Bakker, according to the decisions, all of which he rejected. In 2009, however, he told the board he refused an offer the previous year because he would have had to leave a building where he felt comfortable and did not wish to associate with violent offenders at a different institution.

Later decisions show Bakker continued to refuse treatment and psychological interviews due to apparent frustration with the Correctional Service of Canada.

At the final hearing in 2011, the board noted he “performed well while employed in the kitchen” and “demonstrated a good work ethic.” He was accepted into a cook apprenticeship program and his conduct behind bars was “appropriate with no institutional charges or incidents.”

Bakker attributed his good behaviour to having become a Christian, and told the board he realized he had been “living in a very selfish life.”