Community organizations doubt sex offender James Conway is 'high risk'
Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017 5:29PM PDT
Amid the panic in the public resulting from James Conway’s move to Chilliwack, community organizations and those who have worked directly with the convicted sex offender say it may be time to rethink calling him “high risk.”
Conway, who is mentally handicapped, is now living in his fourth city in three years, and has faced protests, lawsuits, and vandalism that destroyed one of his homes.
But the 42-year-old hasn’t offended since a breach of his conditions over three years ago, records show.
“We need to have a new look at this case,” said Raymond Robyn, of the Christian M2/W2 Association. “Look at the past few years. Look at the public safety component.”
Robyn told CTV News that his volunteers found Conway to be physically intimidating, but believed he was manageable as long as he had proper supervision.
Robyn said he didn’t think Conway justified the fear his name has invoked in the communities where he has lived – and could actually get in the way of his supervisors’ work.
“If you meet with him, you see his posture, his demeanour, it will be off-putting. But as a community we need to take a step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, here is someone with human rights,’” he said.
Chilliwack’s mayor, Sharon Gaetz, told reporters on Monday that “no community wants a sexual offender.”
Chilliwack RCMP did not answer questions about how many other sexual offenders live in the city’s boundaries.
But their presence is a reality in most cities. For example, when Conway was living in Abbotsford, officers told CTV News there were 300 other registered sex offenders living in that city.
But it was Conway who received the lion’s share of media attention, thanks to a public warning when he arrived in that city. That warning is prompted by a “high-risk” designation by B.C. Corrections.
B.C. Corrections didn’t answer questions from CTV News about why Conway remains “high risk.”
Conway was convicted in 2000 of a sexual assault, and then of sexual interference of a person under 16 in 2005. He breached conditions several times, including in February 2015, when he was arrested for sitting next to a young girl on a TransLink bus.
He first lived in Delta, and then moved to an Abbotsford home set up by a provincial government contractor. There, he was met with protests demanding that he leave.
At the time, Abbotsford Const. Ian MacDonald said the measures police and B.C. Corrections had put in place were strong: “I very much doubt a breach will transpire,” he said.
He couldn’t say the same for the Bradner community. There had been 12 complaints of vandalism on Conway's house, including pouring concrete on the house, putting padlocks on doors, throwing rocks and painted signs hanging on public and private property that warned of a sexual predator.
His then-landlord Brian Vos told CTV News that the neighbours didn’t understand who Conway was: a mentally handicapped and heavily medicated person who, between electronic and personal monitoring, couldn’t do anything without supervision.
“He’s got health issues. He’s mentally challenged. He’s not a threat like they’re talking about,” Vos said at the time.
Shortly after that interview, someone ran a hose up to his attic, turned it on, and collapsed the ceiling.
Abbotsford police investigated the vandalism, but closed the file in 2015 because of lack of forensic evidence and the inability of identifying suspects from surveillance video, authorities said.
In his home in Mission, he faced protests, a lawsuit alleging the house he lived in was breaking zoning rules, and controversy about a conflict of interest in the house ownership that ultimately resulted is his eviction again.
Glen Flett, who works with ex-cons in a group called L.I.N.C., said it’s unusual that despite all that pressure, Conway hasn’t reoffended.
“Twenty-five conditions? I think this guy hasn’t sneezed wrong,” he said.
“He’s been out for three years now and there hasn’t been an incident. Other than the media frenzy. He hasn’t caused any problem in the community itself,” he said.