Family wants liquor stores to post photos of drunk driver when he leaves prison | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Family wants liquor stores to post photos of drunk driver when he leaves prison

Michael Cooper, 55, is shown in a police handout photo. Halifax police are warning all Nova Scotia residents about Cooper, a man who is deemed a high risk to re-offend after serving a seven-year sentence for impaired driving causing death. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Halifax Regional Police
January 20, 2014 - 1:22 PM

HALIFAX - The parents of a teenager who died in a collision with a drunk driver is appealing to Nova Scotia's liquor corporation to post pictures in its stores of the man who killed her after he repeatedly said he would continue to drink and drive once free.

It's expected that Michael Gerard Cooper will be released from Dorchester Penitentiary on Tuesday or Wednesday after serving his full seven-year sentence for the deaths of Angela Smits, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Michael MacLean.

Gerard Smits, the young woman's father, wants liquor stores and bars to be aware of Cooper and restrictions placed on him so that he won't able to purchase alcohol. Through his lawyer, he made the request to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., the province's Utility and Review Board and the Alcohol and Gaming Division.

"It's for the safety of the people of the province," he said from Sydney River in Cape Breton.

"It's pretty horrendous that someone could actually take the lives of two people, serve seven years in a penitentiary and have enough time to think about it and still come out and be that adamant that he's going to do the same thing all over again."

The Utility and Review Board, which licences liquor establishments, said it is reviewing the unusual request and has yet to determine what it will do, if anything. Paul Allen, the board's spokesman, said he has never seen any such appeal in the 26 years he has been there.

Mike Maloney, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Liquor, said the Crown agency is looking into the matter to determine how to proceed. He said they have worked with police before in keeping an eye out for people who are wanted by them.

But he said they've never received a request of this breadth before.

"To my knowledge no one's ever asked that many different boards and entities for such a blanket kind of approach," he said.

"We're trying to weigh the best decision with what we're legally able to do and what works best with the process we have in place already."

Cooper was convicted of two counts of impaired driving in 2007 following the accident on May 14, 2007. Cooper had spent hours drinking at a bar in St. Peter's, N.S., and began driving home when he crossed the centre line. He collided with MacLean's car, killing the young couple on scene.

He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison along with a 99-year ban on driving. His mandatory release date was set for Wednesday.

He was handed 22 conditions in a recognizance, including a prohibition on drinking for two years after his release.

But at several hearings with the Parole Board of Canada, Cooper said he would not stop drinking and driving.

"Your lack of progress during the past year has been demonstrated by your continued rigid thinking to the effect that you cannot commit to refraining from impaired driving," a board official wrote last March after a hearing that denied early release.

The Nova Scotia Justice Department was awaiting a decision from a high-risk offender committee made up of police and Justice officials, which could determine whether the public should be notified of Cooper's release.

Spokesman Chad Lucas said that decision would likely become public the day Cooper is released. He said the police force where Cooper resides would then decide whether to issue a public notice, but the liquor corporation would decide independently whether it would post Cooper's photo.

Veronique Rioux, a spokeswoman with Correctional Service Canada, could not confirm his release date but said his sentence expires Wednesday.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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