Monday November 24, 2014

Not criminally responsible doesn’t seem right


It is not often that we get a murder trial in Yorkton. We can be thankful for that.

When it does happen, it is the kind of thing I could spend a full two weeks doing if it were not for the realities of working for a community newspaper. I simply did not have time to spend much in the courtroom.

Consequently, this week’s front page story about the end of the Richard Lesann trial for the 2011 murder of Tammy Kulaway is fairly sparse. I will, of course, rectify that with a feature story when we get a written decision, which I predict will be sometime in the fall. After closing arguments on May 22, Justice C.L. Dawson set a date of June 20 to set a date for the decision. In my experience, the period between a trial and a decision is usually measured in months depending on the complexity of the case.

In this case, it could be quite tricky indeed. The defence argued for acquittal on grounds of self defence. In short, because he did not have the capacity at the time to form the intent to commit murder and is therefore not criminally responsible (NCR).

I am not privy to the justification for the argument because I was not able to be in court at the time, but it calls to mind another high profile case.

On July 30, 2008, Vince Li beheaded and mutilated the body of 22-year-old Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

At trial, the Court heard that Li believed God had told him to kill McLean or face execution. On May 5, 2009, Judge John Scurfield ruled Li did not appreciate that his actions were morally wrong and that the accused did, in fact, believe he was acting in self-defence at the time, that he was not criminally responsible.

These kinds of decisions always fuel major outrage from the public, and rightly so. But the Criminal Code is unequivocal on the issue. Section 16 reads: “No person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”

As in the Li case, there has been no attempt to deny that Lesann actually killed Kulaway.

On May 17, the Criminal Code Review Board approved LI for supervised leave from the psychiatric hospital where he is interred.

Another NCR designate Guy Turcotte who stabbed his five- and 3-year-old children to death in 2009 was released on conditions in 2012.

Not criminally responsible or not, it doesn’t seem right these people are already on the street again. At least Lesann will be sentenced under the new Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act which became law on April 10.



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