Pickton book prompts B.C. ban on profits from crime

New law aims to recover proceeds of memoirs, memorabilia sold by murderers, rapists and other criminals

Robert Pickton

The B.C. government has proposed a law to stop murderers and others convicted of serious crimes from profiting through sales of books or memorabilia related to their crimes.

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said the legislation he presented Thursday is a response to a book written about Robert Pickton’s serial murders in Metro Vancouver. It was produced by a U.S. author and briefly marketed by online retailer Amazon.

The U.S. publisher withdrew the book in February after a public outcry, and Premier Christy Clark promised a law to prevent criminals from similar attempts by criminals to make money.

Morris said the legislation is similar to that of other provinces, including Saskatchewan, where a court challenge over a book by former cabinet minister Colin Thatcher was not successful. Thatcher maintained he was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife in 1983, but later agreed to turn over his proceeds from a book to the Saskatchewan government.

Morris said the B.C. Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act is designed to recover any revenue made by anyone dealing with a convicted criminal, and distribute that money to victims of the crimes in question.

“Any arrangement that any convicted criminal makes with anybody, through an agent or through a contract, for them to make a profit from their crime is covered under this act,” Morris said.

“Because the individual who was involved [in the Pickton book] was down in the States, we would be looking for reciprocal agreements that we have with other jurisdictions, not only in Canada but across North America to help us enforce that.”

The legislation covers people convicted of crimes including murder, sexual offences, child exploitation, kidnapping, drug trafficking or trafficking in persons. The legislation is retroactive to verbal or written contracts made after Jan. 1, 2001.

The constitution protects the ability of anyone to tell their story, but not to profit from it.