Colin Thatcher, the former Saskatchewan politician who was convicted in 1984 of brutally murdering his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson, has always maintained his innocence. He continues to do so in a new book, Final Appeal: Anatomy of a Frame, published this month by ECW Press. Now, the Saskatchewan government has determined that Thatcher’s book falls under the purview of the Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act, a law that was drafted in April of this year (and fast-tracked as a response to the announcement that ECW would publish Final Appeal). The law is intended to prevent convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes. According to an article on the CBC website, justice officials in Saskatchewan will send Thatcher a letter asking him to voluntarily turn over any money he receives as a result of publishing the book:
[Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don] Morgan said justice officials will ask Thatcher to account for any money he receives for the book and to pay it to the government.
“The process that’s outlined under the act would be that they [justice officials] would write a letter to the author, the publisher, printer, etc., and ask for documents, details, etc. And when they receive that information they would expect compliance with the act to receive funds on it,” Morgan told reporters. “If co-operation isn’t forthcoming then they would make application to the Court of Queen’s Bench.”
Whether Thatcher will voluntarily comply remains to be seen. If the author is sincere in his motives for publishing the book “ laying out his side of what he has always maintained was a miscarriage of justice “ then it is safe to assume that profit is not what he’s most interested in. (And where the proceeds of the book end up is ultimately distinct from any kind of freedom of speech argument: no one is currently suggesting that the book should be withdrawn.)
Thatcher served 22 years of a 25-year sentence. He was paroled in 2006.