Manitoba youth justice and mental health: ‘Life-altering verdict,’ or just par for the course?

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.56.14 PMThere’s possibly fewer things as despairing in our youth justice system than witnessing a young future handed over to an overtaxed and overstressed mental health system to figure out.

Thankfully, it happens relatively rarely, but it did happen this week to J.

He’s a now 18-year-old man who, despite signs of some hope in recent months, was deemed unfit to stand trial on some [relatively minor] charges and turned over to await disposition as to his treatment by the Criminal Code Review Board.

As his lawyer put it: “It is a life-altering verdict to him.” And it’s true.

Will he end up in a hospital or on the street? It’s unknown. Winnipeg Child and Family Services is involved and keen to find him assistance wherever it can, but an agency representative was noticeably absent at the Manitoba Youth Centre this week when Judge Sandra Chapman found J unfit and ordered him over to the CCRB. It was surprising because CFS had attended court hearings in the past out of a sincere wish to see him get help, Chapman was told.

J first came to the attention of police and the system on Jan. 9, 2012, when he and his mother got into a fight inside their home.

High on drugs, he became enraged to the point of threatening her. “I don’t care if you guys call the cops — I’ll take you guys all out and kill you,” J said, just before retreating to his bedroom.

Police arrive at the mom’s bidding and find him in his bedroom, high on the anxiety drug Restoril, mellow from marijuana and packing a small kitchen knife. He’s taken to the Manitoba Youth Centre. He gets bail.

Fast forward to Jan. 27, 2013: Police find him at 1:20 a.m. reeking of booze on McPhillips Street. Again, he’s a direct lockup at the MYC, then bailed out shortly after.

The final shot at release he saw ended around 11:50 p.m. March 3, while he’s now staying at a CFS “shelter” which also doubles as a hotel on Pembina Highway.

J became so angry with his CFS watcher he began assaulting him, then proceeded to take a chair outside and hurl it at the social worker’s car several times. Nothing was broken and the worker was uninjured. He was again detained at the youth centre.

And then the psychological assessments begin. Over the coming months, J would have three mental-health assessments conducted by doctors, two of which were tendered in court. The third was excluded because it didn’t deal with mental fitness-related issues.

After the first, it was considered he was “just being difficult,” and a “defiant young man.” One doctor found he “could be fit” at some time, but when, exactly, was naturally unknown. Time marched on.

Months later, J’s advocate told Chapman this week, it was clear the young man was “decompensating” — deteriorating — possibly because he was being held in a jail and had been there for a couple of months.

As one doctor put it: It was “no longer clear where the boundary line was between provocative behaviour (what the earlier doctor saw) and psychosis.”

In one example, the forensic psychiatrist said J would “stare (him) down.” The belief was J was now “presently actively psychotic” — a kid of 17 at that point who admitted he thought he could tolerate life inside Lakewood, the maximum-security youth facility in Manitoba.

There, inmates receive an hour of recreational time each day. The rest is spent in a locked room and under constant observation.

J said ‘no’ many, many times, when Chapman asked him the following: Do you know what’s happening here? Do you know what your lawyer is? Do you know what my role is?

Everyone — Crown, defence and Chapman — expressed reluctance at putting such a young man into “the system” [their words] on such minor charges. But there was little else to do.

Everyone involved hopes he’ll find his way to a hospital and adequate treatment from doctors. He was to be released as soon as practicable from the MYC.

But given some of the stories that have come to light about the mental health regime in Manitoba (and Canada, to be honest) of late, I can’t help but wonder if J is now simply to be cut adrift, possibly lost for good. Maybe institutionalized, possibly to be released and wind up on the street.

I note grimly that immediately, the court ordered the review board was to receive an extension of the time it is required to conduct a disposition hearing for J — to 90 from 45 days.

The ink’s not even dry on the paperwork, but already exceptions are being made.

And they’re not to accommodate J, but to accommodate the system. And it’s sad.

—————–

Also sad — and something I wasn’t aware of, is how two cells at the Manitoba Youth Centre are deemed “psychiatric beds,” a reality J’s lawyer called “completely unacceptable.”

What she meant, I believe: Jails are for criminals, suspected and otherwise.

“Psychiatric beds” are for sick people who need treatment, not incarceration.

As well, two beds at the above-mentioned Lakewood max facility are also designated for psychiatric-related inmates, court heard.

This was a situation described as, “not ideal.”

I’ll say.

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Chris Campbell: Another tragic case of under-resourced mental health/criminal justice services?

Christoper Mackenzie Campbell
(Christoper Mackenzie Campbell/WPS)

While many facts remain yet to be proven or tested, it’s pretty clear something appears to have gone horribly wrong with Christopher Mackenzie Campbell.

Campbell, at age 42, currently stands accused in Winnipeg’s latest homicide — believed to be that of a relative, possibly his mother — in a home on Alexander Avenue this weekend.

It was a rare situation in which police believe Campbell left the city in a family vehicle which is linked to the victim, one located just outside of Regina on Sunday. Campbell made his way into that city and was taken into custody downtown.

He was to be returned to Winnipeg forthwith.

Court records show a charge of second-degree murder is pending. The victim’s identity, including her age, has not been released.

Police this weekend said the following in announcing they were looking for him:

“Campbell has been treated for a mental illness in the past.

Information has been received that he has not been taking his medications as required.

Caution should be used if approached by Campbell as his behaviour may be unpredictable and he may be violent.”

I fear Campbell’s case may end up being another of those sad ones which seem to crop up each and every year.

Those ones where justice system efforts to assist and supervise ultimately clash, fizzle or peter out due to the poor state of urgent mental-health related resources in Manitoba, a pressing topic I only recently wrote about.

In any event, some background:

An incident in summer 2008 ultimately seemed to force Campbell’s hand to seek out help for his issues.

His lawyer at the time called his arrest at that time “a blessing in disguise” as Campbell may not have been diagnosed or sought help if it hadn’t happened.

It was on July 6, 2008 that Campbell approached a total stranger — a landscaper from Shelmerdine garden centre — outside Campbell’s apartment block at 400 Assiniboine Avenue.

He walked up to the gardener and asked him not to use any “power equipment” on the lot — a request to which the victim says he must use a power blower to do his job.

“If you use any power equipment, I’m going to get a sniper rifle and shoot you in the head,” Campbell replied.

He also tossed the glass of water he was holding at the landscaper.

The bizarre threat was overheard by an independent witness.

Police are called, they arrive quickly. Campbell declines to speak with a lawyer while in their custody.

But in his time with police he makes several other concerning comments, including how the interviewing officers seem like “dolphins out of water,” that “he’s a nice guy, almost God-like” and that one officer’s badge number, “is similar to the Mayan’s calendar that adds three years.”

He pleads guilty to a count of uttering threats. An assault charge is stayed.

The Crown agrees to recommend a conditional discharge after learning Campbell — a father to two teenagers — took it upon himself to seek out mental-health help following his arrest.

At the time of his February 2009 sentencing, court was told he was under the care of a psychiatrist and occupational therapist at the HSC’s PsychHealth centre, having checked himself in there for a time.

He was diagnosed with what was described as “mild” schizophrenia.

“It turns out that his mother also has schizophrenia … so perhaps it’s hereditary,” Judge Marvin Garfinkel is told.

At the time, Campbell was unemployed, but volunteering at the HSC in its “spiritual assistance department.”

The former co-owner of the long-then-defunct Rogue’s Gallery on Assiniboine [less than a block from his home at the time] was due to have a first outpatient appointment at PsychHealth five days after his court date.

He was to see the psychiatrist and therapist bi-weekly.

Garfinkel ordered Campbell to serve a year of probation, with a central condition being for him to to comply with the treatment as directed by his doctor. That could include to take medication as directed, Garfinkel said.

Campbell readily agreed to follow the program and conditions the probation order set out for him.

“I’m here today of my own freewill, under your mercy,” Campbell told Garfinkel in a clear, unconfused voice.

“And I just wanted to say … I’ve witnessed for the first time now how the court system works, and, you’re offering a lot of grace today, and I just want to say, ‘thank you,’ for that.”

There are no breaches of the probation order recorded in the provincial court system — and Campbell had no apparent prior or proceeding record of involvement with the law.

From uttering threats to an allegation of murder. It’s absolutely tragic for everyone involved.

While our police have said little about their homicide case — which at first glance seems just a hair’s breadth from a domestic violence killing — They did make it clear Campbell appeared to be off his meds at the time.

It’s too early to make any observations of whether gaps between the justice and mental-health systems are in any way to be faulted or was a factor in the killing.

But the fact is, from early appearances of the case, Campbell was known to be a risk — and at risk — when not on his meds.

His probation was only one year long, so who knows how long he may have been off of them, or off of the radar of the system entirely.

Those answers may come in due course as Campbell’s latest interaction with the system plays out. He’s naturally presumed innocent of the charge he’s facing.

But after years of seeing eerily similar cases, my mind can’t help but wonder: Was this tragedy in any way preventable?

Was there something we as a society could have done to ensure it never happened?

Is under-resourced mental health care and supervision again the grey elephant in a gloomy room?

Stay tuned.

Links:

[Must read] Mental Health Commission of Canada: Mental Health and the Law

CMHA: Mental Health and the justice system in BC 

Stats Can: An investigation into data collection between Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems

National Post: Mental Health system turning prisons into asylums

Downtown Winnipeg: Personality sketches

This is the first in a series of sporadic reports about criminally-involved people who habitually inhabit and wander downtown Winnipeg.

There’s a lot more to them and their lives than I’d bet most care to realize.

These are true stories. 

Downtown Winnipeg tales #1: H. M. Jr., 53

There’s something so incredibly sad and yet telling about Mr. M. and his circumstances — also about the hard and lonely realities of his adult life, a good chunk of which has been spent on the streets of our humble downtown.

M. grew up in what he describes as a “good,” religious and abuse-free home on Fisher River First Nation.

The aftermath of an arson M. caused (Tamara King/Winnipeg Sun)

He hasn’t been back there in 20 years.

His dad died 40 years ago of ALS.

He suspects his mom has died of old age but can’t be sure. He hasn’t seen her in two years.

He knows his three brothers and one sister live in Winnipeg, but says they have their own lives. He says he speaks to them “when [he] sees them downtown,” as he believes this is where they work.

He asks for nothing from them and they of him.

M. survived a number of years at a Brandon-area residential school as a young man.

It was an experience he describes as “difficult” — one where instructors beat him frequently when they got the chance, he says.

M.’s parents also attended the same school and they were also “punished” and had their “language forced out of them,” he told a social worker.

Despite these considerable hurdles, M. graduated high school and attended two years of Arts at the University of Manitoba.

He’s employable, with a decent track record of steady work, and has in the past been a willing and co-operative participant in counselling and job-placement programming provided by government agencies.

Up until the other day, he had virtually no criminal record except for a theft under $5,000 conviction from the early 90s.

Despite these positives (and a large amount of government intervention) stability and security remain elusive for M. — who has no kids or wife to rely on.

(He has, however, been engaged twice but the relationships ended mutually)

Here’s how M. described an average day in his life to a probation officer:

“The client was asked to describe his typical day. He responded by stating he usually does any of the following: ‘Go downtown, go try to find work, hang around downtown.'”

Soak that in. Drink up its sadness: There’s nothing else M. — nearing 60 years old with half a university degree and a good amount of job and life experience — can identify to do with himself other than hang around downtown Winnipeg.

It gets even more sad when you consider why he hasn’t been seen in the core over the winter.

Arson was suicide attempt

M. is currently a guest of the province for at least the next few weeks as he serves out a roughly year-long jail sentence for arson, disregard life.

He’s been in custody since last fall when he torched the curtains of his Alexander Avenue rooming house suite in what he told cops was a suicide attempt.

Four people, including M. himself, were injured in what ended up being a fairly dramatic blaze.

The elderly caretaker of the ramshackle home was one of two people who lept from an upper-floor window to safety.

M. told his probation officer he was “tired of living” and didn’t think anyone else living in the house was there at the time he set the fire. He changed his mind and fled the burning house.

It was his second suicide attempt in five years. The earlier was thwarted by a friend who found him and called for an ambulance.

M. wasn’t interested in talking to a probation officer about those friends, however.

He did say he has about five of them, who he sees about twice a week when he bumps into them while wandering downtown.

“The sole activity they undertake is to walk around downtown,” the PO notes.

Sometimes, however, they go and drink at somebody’s home.

It’s not explicitly stated what happened to M. in his 30s, but it appears the bottle got a good grip on him at that time and hasn’t really let go since.

He started drinking at 18, he says. More frequently in his 20s.

A few years later, booze became a major issue and he started finding himself repeatedly taken to the drunk tank under the provisions of the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act to dry out.

He has taken at least some steps to deal with his “significant” alcohol problem.

What’s worse is that M.’s mental health appears to be a growing concern as he ages.

In February, he was assessed as a “high” risk to reoffend.

How that might happen, that’s not explicitly stated.

“Drinking too much just happens,” M. says.

Sadly, that’s also when he gets suicidal.

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Estimate this: Tidbits on Manitoba’s justice system

(Winnipeg Sun file)

Information unreported in the media from the ‘leg Justice Estimates debates that concluded Monday after three days.

Full debates here if you care.

 

 

 

In bullet points [no order]:

  •  Average length of jail stay for sentenced adult offenders in Manitoba: 65 days. Youth: 187 days.
  •  Average length of remand custody for adults: 49 days. Youth: 34 days.
  •  There are six levels of inmates pay within the Manitoba corrections system, based on the work they do: lowest (level one) is $2.20 a day, the highest (level six) is $4.70 a day.
  •  Amount jurors paid to hear trials: $0 for first 10 days, afterwards $30 a day.

 Minister Andrew Swan: 280 persons actually performed jury duty in Winnipeg, including alternates. Forty-two persons performed jury duty in the regions. So the total number of jurors was 322. There were 21 jury trials in Winnipeg and three in the regions for a total of 24.

Minister Swan: The guidelines are that the accused must suffer from a severe and pervasive DSM-IV access one mental disorder. That includes, but is not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, anxiety disorders and severe depression … I can advise that individuals suffering from personality disorders, from organic brain issues such as dementia associated with Alzheimer’s, or an FASD who don’t suffer from an access one disorder, aren’t candidates for the mental health court.

  •  Nintendo Wii units are used at the women’s correctional centre for fitness and exercise. Nintendo DS systems at the youth jail in Portage la Prairie and a Playstation at Headingley jail. They are purchased through the inmate’s trust fund.
  •  “There is some value” in considering using provincial inmates to do public works like parks cleanup, Swan says.
  •  An inmate emailed Justice critic Kelvin Goertzen about watching porn in prisons: “We was watching porn back in October when they installed new cable boxes through Westman Cable; we watched numerous porns, even rented the Diaz v. Condit UFC fight, numerous pay-per-view movies,” he said of the contents of the email.
  •  There is no program for tattoo removal within Manitoba Corrections. Swan said they are looking at one to see if it’s worthy.
  •  There has been one (although some are adamant two) accidental releases of prisoners from Manitoba jails so far this year.
  •  An accidental-release review commissioned by the province last year from an Alberta consultant cost $12,000.
  • Work on the 3rd floor floor of the “new” law courts complex will begin this year. For at least three years, the floor has been ripped up and taped off like a crime scene. [Note: it’s really embarrassing it’s been that way for so long. Tile problems were the apparent issue. Not sure why proper tiles are so hard to find.]
  • Funding for an additional Court of Appeal researcher has been added for this year. Many decisions — despite there being fewer requested in recent years — are more complex and take longer. Many cases take between 6-7 months to be decided. The national standard from the Canadian Judicial Council is six months.
  •  It can take two years to get a preliminary hearing date in Thompson. [It’s not much different in Winnipeg for multi-day prelims.]
  •  Crown attorneys will deal with an expected 154 constitutional challenges this year. Three-quarters of them relate to criminal cases.
  •  As of last Monday, not one gang has been listed as a criminal organization under the Manitoba Evidence Act. This crime-fighting tool was announced in April 2010
  •  Criminal justice budget [adopted] $166,204,000
  • Civil justice budget [adopted] $35,535,000
  • Corrections budget [adopted] $196,965,000
  • Courts budget (adopted] $53,620,000

Manitoba’s mental health court sits May 10

It was many, many moons ago that the NDP declared there would be a provincial mental health court in Manitoba. Nearly a decade has passed.

From the WFP 6/11/2011: By Mary Agnes Welch

It was 2004 when then-Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh first said a mental health court was in the works.

“We’re of the view that if we’re going to have a successful mental health court we have to develop this slowly and sure-footedly,” he told the Free Press at the time.

“Slowly” turned into seven years. Last week, the province announced the court would finally launch this winter.

Selinger said it took time to do proper due diligence and planning on things like the mental health court to get them to a workable point.

“We put it in the throne speech last fall and we did it this spring,” said Selinger of the mental health court. “That’s a pretty fast turnaround.”

But, according to a judicial memo circulated today, we can all mark May 10, 2012 on our calendars as the day the shiny new MHC will sit for the first time.

Re: MENTAL HEALTH COURT 

Effective Thursday May 10, 2012, Mental Health Court (MHC) will sit weekly on Thursdays at 1 p.m. in courtroom 408, 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

This problem-solving court will hear matters where the accused’s involvement with the criminal justice system is a result of mental health issues and there the particulars of the incident(s) fall within the sets of criteria established by the Crown and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team.

PROCESS: 

Persons with mental health issues who have been or are about to be charged with an offence may be identified to the Crown by police, courts or corrections staff or counsel.

In these cases, the Crown will review the file and may refer the accused to the FACT team for a suitability and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application for and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application form and the required waiver form. Provided the accused is a suitable candidate for MHC and willing to participate, the FACT team will prepare a report to the MHC judge which will include a treatment plan. This process constitutes application to Mental Health Court.

Until an accused applies for MHC, the charges will be remanded on the pre-trial coordinator’s dockets. Upon application, the accused with appear for the first time on the MHC docket as arranged by counsel with court staff. The accused will enter guilty pleas, file application and waiver forms and enter into a bail as agreed upon by all parties. The charges will then be remanded week to week while the accused’s mental health is addressed during the treatment plan.

Each Thursday at 12 p.m. the MHC judge will meet with the FACT team and counsel in Judges’ chambers to discuss the treatment progress of each person on the docket. During the court sitting as the Crown calls each matter the MHC judge will address the named accused directly to encourage ongoing commitment.

As each accused’s mental health improves, appearances may become less frequent. Upon the treatment plan being completed, the accused will make a final appearance before the MHC judge either to be sentenced to a community based disposition or for the Crown to stay the charges.

The entire process is expected to take 18-24 months from referral to disposition.

ISSUED By Chief Judge Ken Champagne, Provincial Court of Manitoba

Over the past few months I had heard rumblings this would be happening, but like many, I’m sure, had no idea when.

The only other thing I had heard is that the Crown prosecutor who will be running the show is Susan Helenchilde, who is leaving community prosecutions to take this on.

The first Mental Health Court started in 1998 in Toronto, putting us well behind the curve in terms of time — that’s also allowed (hopefully) Manitoba to gain from the knowledge MHC’s in other jurisdictions have only gleaned through trial (pun intended) and error.

It’s interesting to note that in Toronto’s system, there’s a wide range of offences that aren’t eligible for MHC (below).

We’ll obviously learn in coming days what’s permissible for MHC in Manitoba.

I’d also highly recommend reading the “factors to consider” section of the Toronto MHA website. It’s also clear that Manitoba’s taking a bit of a ‘baby-step’ approach by electing (as per the memo above) to not stay charges until the treatment plan is completed.

Geeks can read stats analysis and other research topics on MHC’s here at Stats Can. (Like the court, your tax dollars paid for it, may as well read it.)

3. Eligibility of Offences

    • a. Offences that are not eligible (also known as Class III for purposes of other practice memoranda)

The following classes of offences will not be eligible for treatment plans or supervisory programs as an alternative to prosecution, regardless of the circumstances of the alleged offence or the accused:

      • murder, manslaughter, infanticide, criminal negligence causing death;
      • causing death or bodily harm by dangerous or impaired driving;
      • any offence causing serious bodily harm;
      • simple impaired driving or driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration;
      • offences involving firearms;
      • criminal organization offences;
      • kidnapping;
      • spouse/partner offences
      • child abuse;
      • offences involving child pornography
      • sexual offences including sexual assault, interference and exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and incest;
      • specific hate offences
      • home invasions;
      • perjury;

For the record: Judge Sandhu on emergency mental-health services

Judge Fred Sandhu

I’m a big fan of provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

While I don’t always agree with every decision he makes, I respect his willingness to put his thoughts on the record.

Tuesday was no different. But instead of taking aim at Manitoba’s booze problem, he fired on the lack of emergency mental-health services available to people.

His long tirade came during a sentencing hearing for John Favell, a clinically depressed, alcoholic, criminal who is now serving his second federal bit for robberies.

You can read my story here to get the flavour of what Favell did and the help he sought — but was denied — before he started drinking and robbing again.

I thought it was important — to put the judge’s full comments on the record, and I present it verbatim (for the most part) below. Sandhu is largely speaking directly to him.

I’ve said this many times before. I don’t see why people who feel they’re alcoholic can’t manage their lives either by drugs or alcohol and they go into a medical facility and ask for medical help, why can’t they get it right away?

I don’t understand that.

Because if you went into a hospital and said, ‘I’ve got cancer,’ … they’d give you treatment.

But apparently if you go in and you have a broken brain, you don’t get treatment.

I don’t understand that, because this could have been prevented.

All of this could have been prevented if they’d taken you, if there was a bed.

If they had more than 30 spaces at all the psychiatric hospitals in the city — that’s all they have, and they’re full all the time and people like you who walk in there and say, ‘I’m in a mental emergency,’ they won’t take you because your not a danger to yourself and you’re not a danger to others. Or they don’t think you are. So they don’t let you in.

Because there are people that are in these psychiatric beds, the ones that are clearly a danger to themselves or clearly a danger to others.

And people who are kind of maybe not a danger, well, ‘you’ll just have to walk home.’

Because you’re not horribly bad, just kind of mildly bad.

To me, it seems short sighted. You should have gone to that hospital, you should have gone for an assessment for seven days, stabilize you and out you go.

And then there wouldn’t be five victims out there.

And you wouldn’t be spending six years in jail at $100,000 a year.

You’re a half million dollar man already. And that it would have taken is a few thousand to get you some treatment.

It doesn’t make sense.

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Remembering a God-fearing man’s senseless death

(Tim Knudsen, second from left, with family)

When disabled or vulnerable people — like Harvey Sanderson Jr. — wind up beaten and dead, my blood boils.

I’m likely not alone.

Sanderson’s beating seems so callous and pointless.

But, in some small way, it allows me a small opportunity to offer my apology to the family of a vulnerable man beaten to death in fall 2008 because he didn’t have a smoke to give a passing drunk.

As it is with Sanderson, I had the same dull pit of anger in by gut in the days following the killing of Tim Knudsen outside the Salvation Army — his home.

As I’ve come to learn, some of those who participated in the group beating that ultimately caused the 300 lb. “gentle giant” to suffer a massive brain injury and die remain at large. They know who they are and hopefully they live in shame and torment for their actions.

A week or so after Knudsen died, police arrested two men who ultimately pleaded guilty.

Cyril Raven — who initiated the attack, punched Knudsen, knocked him down and walked away, pleaded to assault cause bodily harm and got a sentence of 190 days time served and two years of probation, which is still ongoing.

Dean Isbister — who joined in and kicked the prone, defenceless Knudsen in the head at least twice — pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 638 days time served, plus two years less a day of jail to top it off and three years probation to follow.

They were sentenced June 17, 2010 in front of Judge Marvin Garfinkel.

Their punishments, from what I can tell through news archives, has never been reported.

But more importantly, what was never put on the record is the comments made by Knudsen’s sister, Ann Piekoff, in her statement to the court — and the two men held responsible for the crime.

Ann was kind enough to sit and talk with me back in my Free Press days. Judging from the date of the post of our time together, it was a few months after her beloved brother died.

To hear her talk about how there were no defensive wounds found on her brother’s hands during the autopsy.

I committed back then to seeing the prosecution through, but lost track of it along the line, having switched jobs and responsibilities.

For that, I apologize.

And while I could rail on about what some may call “weak” sentence meted out by the courts for the loss of a good man’s life (however challenged it was) there’s no point. Given conflicting statements given by witnesses at the scene, the Crown was probably lucky to get the convictions it did.

What is important, I feel today, is to remember Knudsen — through the words of his sister as told to Garfinkel.

Here they are, for the record.

Sadly, Tim’s life ended tragically, far too soon, almost two years ago. To understand what we have lost, your Honour, you have to know a little bit about who Tim was and what he meant to me and to his family and friends.

Tim didn’t choose his life, but he lived it the best he could. He had his challenges mentally and physically but he never burdened others with his issues. He was fiercely independent and chose to live on his own in a community where he was accepted and indeed had many friends.

Tim loved the outdoors and often went fishing with his friends from the Booth Centre. He especially loved going to the Goldeyes games or the football games when he had the chance.

Sundays would find him at chapel where he loved music and singing. He had a passion for music — all kinds of music from heavy metal to … gospel.

The last photo we have of Tim is him at a gospel meeting, reading from the Bible.

Even though Tim was independent and wanted to live on his own he was still very much connected to his family.

I had a weekly ritual with Tim.

He would call me on Mondays to arrange a day to come over to visit myself and his two nieces.

He would always come over early so then he could cut my grass or shovel the snow. He would do anything I asked him to.

He loved family get-togethers and celebrations. Even though he didn’t talk a lot, you knew he enjoyed being around our gatherings.

Now, when my parents come to visit, there’s an empty spot at the dinner table. I see the pain and the sadness in my parents’ eyes knowing that Tim won’t be there.

It would be easy to judge or dismiss Tim as a homeless bum based on where he lived and his physical appearance. But Tim was part of a loving family and was loved by us as well as his friends.

Tim was our gentle giant, he was generous to a fault and would never lift a hand against another. The tragedy is he chose to live independently —as was his right— and because of his challenges he was vulnerable.

I was his big sister and I should have been able to protect him but could not.

His death leaves a hole in our lives as it does for his friends and our community.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I and my family don’t think about him.

I miss him.

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“Let the system do its work”

 

Manitoba Law Courts building

 

The headline of this post is what Rose McLeod says she heard when she phoned around in an effort to get her mentally-ill husband, Joe, sprung from the Remand Centre.

I feel for her, and him. He must have been scared out of his wits being in there.

But the case is intriguing, and I’d bet to many on the inside of the system, deeply troubling on a few levels.

No person is above the law.

It’s a fundamental principle of justice that the law must be uniformly applied to  everyone in society.

The administration of justice must be above political influence and the whims of the public and the press (whose views are so often looked upon by justice officials with a kind of contempt, I personally feel)

Let’s look at the facts of the McLeod case as they’ve become known:

In early September, a disoriented Joe McLeod pushes his wife, who calls police because she doesn’t know what else to do. Police arrest and charge him with assault causing bodily harm.

For some reason, police chose to detain him, perhaps over concerns for the safety of his wife and maybe the fact he has nowhere else to go that would keep him away from her (she’s a named complainant, don’t forget).

Within my understanding of WPS domestic-violence policy, the officers attending the call had no discretion but to arrest him.

He’s sent to the Remand Centre, where he’s held in a medical ward, away from general population.

On Sept. 8, Joe McLeod make his first court appearance.

His case is remanded 11 times. He appears in courtroom 304 – the domestic-violence bail court – 3 times, but fails to make a bail application.

His wife, worried sick, ramps up her efforts to try and explain the situation.

“Let the system do its work,” she says everyone told her.

Finally, the Liberal party of Manitoba, through its leader Jon Gerrard — a doctor —  saw that holding a press conference to highlight McLeod’s situation was the best way to accomplish two things: Help Rose McLeod in a troubling situation, and, at the same time, criticize the NDP government, which as a matter of routine, is beyond cagy when it comes to public accountability on the justice file.

Headlines blare and the WRHA (???) is held up to talk about/explain the issue to reporters. Since when does the health authority have discretion to comment on criminal justice cases?

Reporters scratch their heads as to why, but the story continues.

The justice minister is nowhere to be found and requests to speak with him are declined.

Political pressure is applied and magnifies the plight of this one mentally-ill man.

Friday — two days after the Liberal press conference — Judge Sandy Chapman sets him free on bail so he can go live at a care home that was hastily arranged for him by health officials.

The Crown (which had the discretion to consented to his bail weeks ago if it so chose) did not oppose his release.

In effect, the bail hearing was a completely unnecessary bit of show.

Note, however, that the file changed hands from junior to senior prosecutor by Friday.

The charge against McLeod remains, and will no doubt be stayed down the road before it ever gets before a judge for a hearing. That’s my bet.

The McLeod case has me thinking a number of concerning things about the nature of justice in Manitoba.

  1. Either the police who arrested him and had him detained were inexperienced,  OR there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling people OR they were hamstrung by the WPS’s ‘mandatory arrest’ policy in DV cases (that’s arrest, not detain, mind you), [NOTE: see comments below for a great explanation of how it works…] OR
  2. The Remand Centre has no intake protocol or discretion with Manitoba Justice to flag cases of concern to the Crown…OR
  3. If you make a big enough stink in the press you can skirt the #1 notion of the justice system (that it applies equally to all — you have to “let the system do its work” —) and get fast-tracked to the front of the line for health care services OR,
  4. S**t happens, mistakes get made, OR,
  5. You fill in the blank.
Rose McLeod was told to “let the system do its work,” but found that to get results, she had no choice but to work the system.
  • What about the next time this happens?
  • How come one press conference and a hue and cry in the media can get nearly-immediate results or action from a system that’s supposed to be above responding to such things?
  • How many other accused persons with Alzheimer’s or Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are behind bars or locked in medical wards of hospitals when they should be — as the McLeod case shows — getting care?
  • Why do my legal sources — people working on the front-lines of the criminal justice system every day — tell me that 7-day mental health assessments ordered by a court for bail purposes routinely take 5-6 weeks to prepare?
  • Why are there only two doctors in Manitoba currently doing these assessments, along with a range of other duties?
  • How can any WRHA official use the excuse of “the case is before the courts, and therefore we can’t comment” ever again?
  • Where is the mental health court that former Attorney General Dave Chomiak promised Manitobans?