Doctors are recommending increased freedom for Vince Li, the mentally ill man found not criminally responsible for a random killing on board a Greyhound bus.
Li appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom this afternoon for his annual Review Board hearing. He was described by his treatment team as a "model patient" who no longer suffers from the type of hallucinations which triggered the 2008 attack near Portage la Prairie.
Dr. Steven Kremer, who has worked closely with Li at Selkirk Mental Health Centre, said it’s time to loosen the reins. He proposed three suggestions:
- Li be allowed unescorted passes into the city of Selkirk, on an incremental basis. Currently, Li is only allowed off-site while escorted. He has taken more than 100 such leaves into Selkirk without incident.
- Li be allowed more relaxed escorted passes into Winnipeg. Currently, Li must be given one-to-one supervision. Kremer is recommending Li be placed under "general supervision" which will be one worker for every three patients.
- Li be moved from a locked facility at Selkirk into a more relaxed, unlocked facility.
The Review Board expects to make their decision within a week. But the writing appears to be on the wall, given that the Crown isn’t objecting to the recommendations.
"Mr. Li has done everything that’s been asked of him," prosecutor Susan Helenchilde told court today. She conceded her department is in a difficult position given that they represent the general public and that Li’s actions were so brutal.
"This is one of the most ghoulish tragedies in Canadian history," she said. However, Helenchilde conceded Li’s best interests must be considered following his NCR finding in court.
Li was found not criminally responsible for the beheading of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in July 2008 near Portage la Prairie. A judge found Li suffered hallucinations from untreated schizophrenia at the time of the unprovoked attack and ordered him held at the Selkirk centre.
To that extent, Kremer said today that Li knows the importance of staying on his medications for schizophrenia and has shown great insight into what triggered the attack. Li has been deemed a low-risk to re-offend, and Kremer said the only real security concern as Li ventures out into the community is that some member of the public might attack him.
The family of Li’s victim, Tim McLean, were in court today but not allowed to make a presentation to the board. They have been vocal critics of Li’s relaxed freedoms and have pushed for tougher federal legislation.
McLean’s mother, Carol de Delley, believes mentally ill killers such as Li must be held indefinitely in a hospital.
The federal government introduced Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, last year in response to Li’s case. The bill would create a new category of high-risk offenders who can’t be considered for release until a court agrees to revoke the designation. They would not have a review of their status for three years, would not be given unescorted passes and would only get escorted passes under narrow circumstances.
The law would make public safety the main consideration in such cases and ensure victims would be notified when the offender is released. The law could also be applied retroactively.
Advocates said the bill further stigmatizes the mentally ill, incorrectly suggests the likelihood of reoffending is connected to the brutality of the crime, and makes people unnecessarily afraid of those with mental illness.