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article imageCanada to crack down on mentally ill violent offenders

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 9, 2013 in Crime
Ottawa - As promised, the Canadian government has introduced a bill to make it more difficult for violent offenders who suffer from mental disorders to gain their freedom.
Yesterday, Bill C-54, known as the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, was introduced in Parliament by the Honourable Ed Fast on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Under existing law, anyone found not criminally responsible (NCR) or unfit to stand trial, is confined to a psychiatric facility for an indefinite time. A person is adjudicated NCR if they are unable to appreciate the nature of their act or if they do not know what they did was wrong.
A person found to be NCR has their detention reviewed once a year by a review board. The board can continue the detention or release them with or without conditions. The review board also has the power to authorized escorted or unescorted passes to temporarily leave the institution in which they are confined.
The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act makes three major changes to the current legislative scheme. The legislation specifically provides public safety to be the paramount consideration in any decision made by a review board. And the board is also specifically mandated to consider the victim or victims of those found to be NCR into account in any decision to discharge the offender or allow for release on temporary passes. The review board will have the power to impose a condition on the offender to abstain from contact with the victim.
A third change is the creation of a new category; a person who is determined to be a high risk NCR. The decision that a person is a high risk will be made by the court that determines the person is not criminally responsible. Once this designation is made, the offender cannot be released unless and until a court revokes the high risk status.
High risk offenders will be unable to receive unescorted passes and granted escorted passes in very limited circumstances. In order to grant an escorted pass, the review board must be satisfied that the public can be adequately protected when the offender is away from the institution.
The period of time the detention of a high risk offender is to be reviewed can be increased from one year to up to three years.
While the bill was being tabled in Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in British Columbia announcing the measures. Harper said, "Our Government is committed to making Canadian streets and communities safer. The new legislation introduced today focuses on victims and places public safety at the forefront of decision-making. This will ensure that not criminally responsible accused people found to be too dangerous to release are no longer a threat to their victims or Canadian communities."
The impetus for legislative changes came from public outrage in two high profile cases. As CBC reports Allan Schoenborn killed his three children in 2008 and was later determined not criminally responsible. Last year, he was eligible to apply for day passes. Similarly, Vince Li was found NCR in the July 2008 killing of Tim McLean. McLean was beheaded on a Greyhound bus travelling through Manitoba. Li was granted escorted day passes last year.
The provisions of the bill will be retroactive and will apply to those currently confined to psychiatric hospitals after having been determined NCR.
More about not criminal responsible reform act, not criminally responsible, High risk offenders, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Tim mclean
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