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article imageCanada reintroduces bill concerning mentally ill offenders

By Arthur Weinreb     Nov 26, 2013 in Crime
Ottawa - The Canadian government introduced the bill to make it more difficult for persons found not criminally responsible to obtain their freedom and to give more rights to victims of crime.
Bill C-14, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, was introduced in Parliament yesterday. It is almost identical to the bill that was introduced in February but died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued.
A major feature of the new proposed legislation is the creation of a new designation; that of a 'high-risk accused.' A person charged with a crime is found not criminally responsible (NCR) if they do not appreciate the nature and quality of their act or do not know it is wrong.
Under Bill C-14, after a person is found not criminally responsible, the prosecutor may apply to the court for a finding the offender is a high-risk accused. The crime must be one involving a serious personal injury offence and the accused must have been at least 18 years of age at the time the offence was committed.
The court can impose the high-risk offender designation if there is a substantial likelihood the accused will use violence in the future that could endanger the life or safety of another person or the court is of the opinion the brutal nature of the crime is such that it indicates there is a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.
In making a decision, the court must consider the evidence such as the nature and circumstances of the offence, the accused's medical treatment, the willingness to follow such treatment and any pattern of previous behaviour. Opinions of experts who have examined the accused must be considered.
Once an offender is designated as a high-risk accused, the times the offender can be absent from the hospital are limited to situations where such absences are necessary for treatment and sufficient steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the public.
The bill specifically states the protection of the public is paramount. The rights of victims of crimes committed by those found not criminally responsible will be enhanced. Victims and their families will be informed when such offenders are discharged and will be told where the offender is residing. The court will be able to put conditions on the accused, prohibiting communication with the victims.
In announcing the reintroduction of the bill, Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada said, "The safety and well-being of Canadians is of paramount importance to our Government. The legislation reinstated today will put safety first, protect Canadians from the most high-risk individuals, and enhance the rights of victims. Through the creation of a new high-risk designation process, we will ensure that those accused who meet the NCR higher risk threshold are no longer a threat to their victims or Canadian communities."
The bill was the result of some high profile cases including that of Vince Li who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in 2008 and Allan Schoenborn who killed his three children in the same year. Both men were later granted day passes after having been found not criminally responsible for their actions.
More about mentally ill offenders, not criminally responsible, highrisk offenders, justice minister peter mackay
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