NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — British Columbia’s prosecution service has initiated the first attempt in Canada to designate a mentally ill man as a “high-risk” accused, years after he was declared not criminally responsible for killing his three children.
But those arguments have been delayed while new defence lawyers for Allan Schoenborn read over “a fair degree” of disclosure describing the man’s current psychiatric state.
“We just don’t know much about a lot of the information,” defence lawyer Rishi Gill told a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Thursday. “We were just retained last week.”
The judge ruled that the first hearing for the unprecedented case would be adjourned for four weeks.
The province’s Criminal Justice Branch announced last week it was initiating an application for the “high-risk” label for Schoenborn.
He was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder at a 2010 trial and confined to a psychiatric hospital in suburban Vancouver, which he has never left.
A judge found Schoenborn was suffering psychosis when he stabbed his 10-year-old daughter and smothered his eight and five-year-old sons in their Merritt, B.C., home in 2008.
The province is now seeking the designation created under new Conservative government legislation that gives power to the courts to indefinitely hold people found not criminally responsible.
A successful application would reverse the decision by a three-member panel of the B.C. Review Board made last May, that granted Schoenborn escorted community outings.
The tribunal’s decision stated that Schoenborn’s illness had been in remission for many years.
The family of the victims, which has been pressuring the provincial and federal governments for tighter controls on Schoenborn, wants the B.C. Supreme Court to overturn the tribunal’s decision.
Schoenborn should be declared a threat to the public, said a spokesman for Darcie Clarke, Schoenborn’s estranged wife and the mother of the three victims.
Dave Teixeira told reporters outside the court that the family doesn’t believe the Review Board made its decision using evidence.
“They’re looking at what I call ‘touchy-feely sentiments,’ and they’re willing to take a chance on Mr. Schoenborn,” Teixeira said.
“Whereas, I believe that the courts will agree with the family and probably with most of Canadians that we’re not willing and ready to take that risk with him just yet.”
The family wants the “high-risk” declaration made in order to legally allow the B.C. Review Board to put Schoenborn into treatment for three years, while banning him from opportunities to enter the community.
Teixeira said sources at the psychiatric facility where Schoenborn lives, in Coquitlam, B.C., told the family the man has been involved in two fights since he was granted the permission for day trips.
Schoenborn has not so far gone on any outings, according to the family’s information, Teixeira added.
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Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press