Thursday, February 16, 2017

Canadian Justice : Beware and Be Alert

"I cannot accept that the preventive powers of Parliament under its criminal law jurisdiction are so limited and that principles of fundamental justice require that the risks arising from uncertainties in assessing the degrees of dangerousness must be entirely borne by the public to the point that even the least onerous and restrictive measures to the accused who is found to be dangerous cannot be ordered."
Justice Charles Gontier, minority opinion, Supreme Court of Canada

"It is now accepted that people with schizophrenia are significantly more likely to be violent than other members of the general population."
"Most studies confirm the association . . . recent good evidence supports a small but independent association [the epidemiology of violence and schizophrenia]."
"Until the early 1990s, the consensus was that those with schizophrenia were no more likely than the general population to be violent."
"[Now it is convincingly clear that . . . a small subgroup of those with the disease are significantly more likely to be violent."
British Journal of Psychiatry, 2002 article

Vince Li, now known as Will Baker, could move to independent living in the community once his treatment team completes an assessment report and community living plan and recommends he's ready to do so.
Vince Li, now known as Will Baker, could move to independent living in the community once his treatment team completes an assessment report and community living plan and recommends he's ready to do so. (CBC)

Canada's most horrifically notorious killer is now essentially a free man, discharged from prison, to live his life unhampered by oversight or the inconvenience of having to call in from time to time to an agent tasked with ensuring that he takes his anti-psychotic medication. The very medication that stops him from acting out his dangerous impulses to do horrific harm to others. The Canadian public was arrested in disbelief at the news that a young carnival worker had been garroted, beheaded and cannibalized in full sight of other passengers on a Greyhound bus in 2008.

Tim McLean, all of 22, was en route from Edmonton to Winnipeg when an atrocity of the most ghoulish proportions was perpetrated on him. A man who no longer uses his original name of Vince Li suddenly turned upon the passenger in the seat next to where he sat, to murder him. In the panic that ensued, the bus was emptied of its passengers, who stood by the bus awaiting the arrival of police. The passengers and police then witnessed the terrifying sight of Vince Li in the final stages of beheading Tim McLean, and eating portions of his flesh.

Vince Li has legally changed his name to Will Baker. He is no longer the killer of Tim McLean, but a man found not guilty of the dreadful fate brought upon Tim McLean by reason of insanity, found not criminally responsible of second-degree murder. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic, treated with anti-psychotic medication, counselled while in custody, to understand his mental state brought about by his illness, and engaged in managing his schizophrenia.

The secure custody in which he was held was lifted and he was incrementally given increased freedom, moved from the hospital setting  to a group home. Two years ago he was permitted to move to his own apartment, monitored to make certain he regularly used the pharmaceuticals that prevented psychotic breakdown. The law set down by the Supreme Court of Canada gives review boards the freedom of discharging such prisoners in the absence of evidence of a risk of harm to the public.

Boards "must order an absolute discharge" when they feel no evidence exists constituting a "significant threat to the safety of the public". The review board could quite easily have allowed the discharge of this man on a conditional basis, that being a requirement that every three months he be checked to ensure his medications were still being taken on a regular basis. Schizophrenia is known to distinguish itself by patients not bothering after awhile with medication; it has a high rate of non-adherence.

According to a paper published in Psychiatry Research in 2009, non-compliance with a drug regimen among schizophrenics ranges from 20 percent to 56 percent in prevalence. Away back before Vince Li murdered and consumed parts of Tim McLean, he had an introduction to the mental health care system in Toronto, having been briefly committed years before this latter psychotic breakdown. He had been assessed, treatment initiated, but "was allowed to leave the hosp8ital too soon", before the drugs had begun to show results.

The public has a right to be apprehensive. This man's ghastly crime does not in any measure earn him the thoughtful consideration that all will be well on his own recognizance. That he has an intellectual understanding of his illness, its effects, and the usefulness of medications in ensuring that he does not once again dive off the deep edge of mental stability overlooks an emotional state guiding him toward surrendering the use of the medications to the belief that he is, after all fine, and has no need for them.
"It's exactly what I've been trying to make the public aware would happen. These types of individuals are generally released in three to five years. And I believe Vince Li was held a little bit longer because of the notoriety attached to the case."
"I don't have confidence in this. No, I don't."
"I do believe with an incurable illness, the likelihood of him descending back into his illness is high. At the end of the day, we do not have a legal mechanism in Canada that requires him to take his medication, treat his illness. If he decides not to, we can't make him, even after what he did. He retains that right to make that decision. I don't think he should."
Carol de Delley, mother of Tim McLean

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