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By: Tim's Law  09-12-2011
Keywords: Mental Health, Psychiatrists, mental illness

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Linda Lafleur knew she was killing Audrey Napper when she struck at her with a knife in May of 2009, but her mental illness prevented her from realizing it was morally wrong, Superior Court Justice David Salmers concluded after a hearing in Oshawa Tuesday. “It is very clear … Ms. Lafleur was not thinking rationally when she killed Ms. Napper,” Justice Salmers said in his ruling.

Ms. Lafleur, 63, readily admitted she killed Ms. Napper, 61, in the Celina Street home they shared, telling a Durham homicide detective she’d been justified in doing so. Ms. Lafleur, who is schizophrenic, believed the victim was murdering children, court heard.

Ms. Lafleur believes she is a member of the royal family who was given permission to commit the murder by U.S. President Barack Obama, court heard. Addressing the court Tuesday, Ms. Lafleur insisted she had been granted indemnity in the killing.

“I was found innocent,” Ms. Lafleur, sitting in a wheelchair and breathing with the aid of an oxygen pump, declared. “I should be found innocent again.”

Prosecutor John Pollard and defence lawyer John Olver both recommended Ms. Lafleur be found not criminally responsible for the murder, and that the Ontario Review Board, which reviews the status of those declared NCR, determine how best to manage her in the future.

“We concede on the balance of probabilities that Ms. Lafleur did not know that what she was doing was wrong,” said Mr. Pollard, adding Ms. Lafleur’s illness “predisposed her to the act.”

Dr. Karen De Freitas, a forensic psychiatrist at Ontario Shores, said Ms. Lafleur continues to present a threat to others. “She remains psychotic and she remains a danger to the public,” she said.

Ms. Lafleur was ordered held at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby until the Ontario Review Board rules on a future course of treatment for her.

The 36-year-old, who can’t be named to protect the identities of her victims, appeared in court on several charges, including multiple counts of attempted murder. She admitted to attacking her four-month-old and nine-year-old sons and sister, 32, with a knife in an unprovoked rampage at her downtown apartment in June 2010.

“Everyone is going to die today,” the woman said after grabbing a large kitchen knife. She also kicked her four-month-old niece across the room before she was disarmed by her sister and held for police. Her two children suffered critical injuries from stab wounds to the stomach but recovered. Her sister suffered minor injuries to her chest; her niece was not injured.

Again as in prior cases, both the Crown and defence lawyers agreed with medical reports stating she couldn’t appreciate the nature of her actions based on hallucinations and paranoid delusions she was experiencing at the time.

Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack agreed with the not criminally responsible diagnosis, so the woman will not go to jail nor receive a criminal record. She will now be under the care of a provincial review board while receiving medical treatment.

“We have no authority to punish an act that is committed by someone who is not able to form the criminal intent,” Pollack said. “We know now these bizarre and frightening acts took place while she was suffering a psychotic disorder.”

The woman, who came to Canada from Somalia, has no prior criminal record. Previously the Free Press quoted a source stating that she was grappling with post-partum depression and had been hospitalized in February 2010. She told police her husband had been using magic on her and expressed concerns about being poisoned and abducted. Her husband doesn’t live in Canada.

“She is known by family to otherwise be a very caring and loving parent,” Dr. Stanley Yaren wrote in a report presented to the court Thursday. He has been working closely with the woman since her arrest and said she has responded well to anti-psychotic medication. She is unable to recall many details of the attack, which ended with the woman calmly sitting on a couch and waiting for police to arrive. Dr. Stanley Yaren wrote the report on Vincent Li also.

The woman is now back in the community, living under the supervision of medical officials and the Elizabeth Fry Society. Child and Family Services now has custody of her children, court was told. She will continue to undergo treatment and will appear before the review board within three months to determine if she can remain an out-patient or should be brought into a secure facility such as Selkirk Mental Health Centre.

The question begs to be asked…. If she was reportedly hospitalized in February 2010, why was the treatment provided not adequate to avert this tragedy yet after a couple of sessions with Dr. Stanley Yaren she is fit to live in the community now?

Thankfully she is not allowed to have any contact with her children unless supervised visits are approved by CFS

Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who doubles as a victims’ rights advocate, has stated that jurors should be barred from sitting on complex murder cases in which a defendant pleads insanity. The senator also feels that the government should be concerned about a sharp rise in the number of not-criminally-responsible verdicts in Canadian courts.

Senator Boisvenu made the comments after the latest verdict came down in the trial of former Quebec doctor Guy Turcotte, who admitted to fatally stabbing and mutilating his two children. Turcotte said he suffered from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts amid a crumbling marriage. The ex-cardiologist could be freed later this summer if the Criminal Review Board decides he’s not a danger to himself or society.

Federal justice department statistics show a startling increase in NCR verdicts of almost 50% in the past 20 years — a spike largely attributable to Quebec courts. “These are disturbing statistics,” said Boisvenu, who plans to raise the issue with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

“When someone admits to having committed a crime, there is a responsibility that comes with it.” Boisvenu said jurors in the Turcotte case were barraged with conflicting testimony from psychiatrists, which made their job extremely difficult. “Some countries have chosen to have psychiatric (evidence) provided by three experts who are independent of the Crown or the defence,” he said.

Statistics show that nearly half of all not-criminally-responsible verdicts between 1992 and 2004 came from Quebec courts even though the province has less than a quarter of the Canadian population.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, had 37% of such verdicts in the same time period, a finding that irks Boisvenu. He says Quebec courts are soft on defendants who plead mental distress.

“The gap between Quebec and other Canadian provinces should concern us,” he said. “It is a symptom of a society that trivializes the crime, thinks that punishment is wrong.”

While Senator Boisvenu statements do raise some interesting points that may have some merit of concerns, the statistics cited seem to imply that jurors are an underlying factor of the increase of “Not Criminally Responsible” verdicts and that is simply not the case.

Most of the cases of NCR in Canada are tried before judges only. A much more prevalent and disturbing trend is of Crown prosecutors failing to aggressively dispute defense assertions of mental impairment. In many of the cases noted on Tim’s Law, the judge was presented with an agreed set of facts by both the crown and defense, where the only witnesses were the psychiatrist who made assessments based on meeting the accused a few times. The judge is bound by judicial precedence to make a determination of guilt based only on the evidence presented so the verdict is inevitably NCR.

Senator Boisvenu joins the small but growing list of political leaders who are expressing an interest in raising the topic of NCR verdicts is most welcome and indeed needed. But there are many factors that need addressed that go way beyond simplistic solutions. Reviewing the handling of many of the cases that have resulted in NCR verdicts would be a good start. Offering solutions to funding issues that likely plague many of the smaller offices of crown prosecutors may be another. Certainly working to improve mental health treatment in Canada that may have alleviated some of the crimes in the first place is another.

Simple solutions will not solve the disturbing trend of increased NCR verdicts in Canada. Juries not being able to understand complex and conflicting testimony at a murder trial may cause concern but implying that it is responsible for the increase in NCR verdicts is stupid. And in a highly educated society like Canada… the public may indeed be gullible and trusting but we are not stupid.

A ruling by the Ontario Superior Court gives some hope that some sanity still exists in the Canadian judicial system. Ved Dhingra stabbed his estranged wife to death and then attempted to claim her life insurance benefits but won’t receive any payout a Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled.

In June 2006, Kamlesh Dhingra was found dead in her Richmond Hill, Ontario home. She was struck on her head with a statue and stabbed multiple times in the neck and body. While a court found that Ved Dhingra killed his wife Kamlesh Dhingra, it found him not criminally responsible for the murder because he suffered from schizoaffective disorder.

Note: There are numerous debates within the mental health field whether a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder even exists!

Because the court decided he wasn’t criminally responsible, Scotia Life Insurance Company said it would pay the $50,000 policy benefit to Dhingra, who was the sole beneficiary.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled that Dhingra, who was sent to the Whitby Mental Health Centre following his trial, isn’t entitled to the insurance benefits. “(Dhingra) committed second degree murder of his ex-wife Kamlesh. Even though he was not found criminally responsible, he still physically committed the crime,” Justice Andra Pollak wrote in her ruling.

“There is no judicial support in Canada for (Dhingra’s) submission,” she continued.

Her ruling sided with Dhingra’s son Paul, who had argued that the insurance benefits should go to his mother’s estate and not to his father. Lina Dhingra, Paul’s sister has said her father would appeal Pollak’s ruling.

B.C.’s attorney-general Barry Penner is calling for the federal government to abolish one-year reviews for killers who are found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder (NCR). Barry Penner met Thursday with federal counterpart Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to discuss the proposal which seeks to eliminate annual reviews for killers found NCR.

The attorney-general says the request stems from a meeting earlier this year with Darcie Clarke, who says she is haunted by the fact that her ex-husband will come up for a review every year, making her re-live the nightmare of her children’s murders.

In 2008, while visiting the home of his estranged wife, Alan Schoenborn stabbed to death his daughter Kaitlynne, 10, and smothered his sons Max, 8, and Cordon, 5. He was found not criminally responsible and it caused an public outcry when months after the ruling, the BC criminal review board ruled that Schoenborn should have increased freedoms into the community.

“I suggested it should be every three years or five years, or earlier if the treating psychiatrist says there is a marked improvement,” Penner said. He urged the justice minister to consider abolishing annual reviews for “those who committed heinous acts, such as taking another person’s life or committing a serious assault.”

Penner would like to see other changes to Criminal Code Section 672, which governs those found not criminally responsible for their crimes because they were mentally ill at the time. He wants to make sure more than one psychiatrist is on the review board panel when making a decision on when to release a patient into the community, even on escorted passes.

There should be at least two psychiatrists “and maybe make it a panel of three so you don’t have a tie vote,” Penner said.

The justice minister seemed receptive to the proposed changes, Penner said.

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The information in this article was current at 06 Dec 2011

Keywords: Defence Lawyer, Defence Lawyers, Health Sciences, Mental Health, mental illness, Psychiatrists

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