Canada

MANDEL: It’s official: Marco Muzzo parole hearing will go ahead without victims present

The bad news she was dreading is now official: Marco Muzzo, the drunk driver who killed her family, will get to plead his case for freedom later this month without her present.

Not only can’t Jennifer Neville-Lake be there in person, but they’ve made no allowances for her to participate by a virtual meeting or even by conference call.

The Parole Board of Canada has not only confirmed that all victims and media observers are banned from all hearings due to COVID-19 but the PBC offered no virtual alternative – so the family devastated by Muzzo’s drunk driving is completely shut out.

“It’s a mental and psychological nightmare,” says Jennifer Neville-Lake, who lost her father, Gary Neville, and her three children in the horrific crash on Sept. 27, 2015.

“In this day and age I am shocked, surprised and angry that there is no option of a secure teleconference or video conferencing for victims to be able to participate in these hearings,” she argues.

“We know that the courts use video conferencing systems for bail hearings and that a video link was used previously at the drunk driver’s last parole hearing in Gravenhurst. Why can’t it be used again?” she demands.

Why, indeed?

As we’ve written before, the Parole Board has understandably barred all hearing observers since last month due to the pandemic. Still, there was hope that since the Muzzo parole hearing wasn’t until the end of April, that officials would figure out a way by then to arrange a virtual session – just as they are doing in the courts.

Instead, Muzzo won’t have to face the fierce mother of the three children he killed when he makes his second bid for freedom.

Sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016, he was turned down for early release in November 2018 after failing to convince the parole board that he now recognizes his problems with alcohol.

He’s been eligible for full parole since May 2019.

Marco Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/TORONTO SUN FILES)

Muzzo had just returned by corporate jet from his bachelor party in Miami when he got into his Jeep Cherokee on the sunny afternoon and headed to his Woodbridge home.

Gary Neville, 65, was driving back to his daughter’s house in Brampton with his wife, mother-in-law and three grandchildren when Muzzo ran a stop sign and slammed his Jeep into their minivan.

Neville and Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5 and Milagros, 2, died while the two women in the vehicle survived with serious injuries.

The children’s mother delivered a heartbreaking, impassioned victim impact statement at Muzzo’s last hearing at Beaver Creek Institution. Now she’s relegated to sending another to the board – either a video, audio or written version.

“I have the right to participate in these hearings,” insists Neville-Lake.

She’s been asking about virtual options since March 20. How difficult would it be to arrange a secure phone line?

“I have asked about a teleconference call or video call. Even just to be on the line at a location they choose. Nothing. Crickets,” she complains.

“In our virtually interconnected world of today that is designed to include everyone from anywhere, how can this be happening?”

It’s a question that demands an answer.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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