A case in which a service station clerk was threatened with a knife has renewed the call for a Mental Health Court to be set up in Brandon, like the program that’s already available in Winnipeg.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t yet have that process in Brandon and I hope that we will at some point,” Judge Shauna Hewitt-Michta said in Brandon court on Monday.
The province launched the Mental Health Court in Winnipeg earlier this year.
It diverts accused with mental health issues from the regular criminal justice system and places them on bail as they undergo treatment. If treatment is successful, the charges against the accused are dropped, or they receive a non-jail sentence such as probation.
Shortly before its launch, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said the program could be expanded beyond Winnipeg at some point but it hasn’t found its way to Brandon yet.
On Monday, Hewitt-Michta lamented the lack of such a court in Brandon as she sentenced Bradley Peter Charles Dyck, 54, for possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
On Jan. 24, Dyck was at the Domo gas station on First Street North when he confronted the clerk who was pumping gas.
According to police, Dyck was unprovoked when he “questioned” the employee’s sexual orientation, pulled a utility knife out of his jacket pocket, waved it in the clerk’s face and extended the blade.
Dyck then left without harming the clerk and was arrested at his residence in a nearby mobile home park.
On his part, Dyck suggested to authorities that the situation was some kind of bizarre misunderstanding.
He claims he’d gone to the gas station to discuss the possibility of buying a car from the owner’s son but things got heated when he wouldn’t pay the asking price.
As he stepped out of the station, Dyck uttered the word “faggot” out of frustration, the worker at the pump — who Dyck noted wears nail polish — took offence and lifted the gas pump toward Dyck.
According to Dyck, that’s when he pulled the knife and told the worker: “Back off you f-----g faggot, why don’t you shoot me in the back?”
Dyck said the confrontation then ended with his departure.
He has a lengthy record that includes previous violent offences, but court also heard that he has a disorder that affects his judgement and can be aggravated by built-up stress.
He may also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, although the source of that potential disorder wasn’t identified.
Defence lawyer Ryan Fawcett said his client was dealing with a number of stressors at the time of the incident. Those included the loss of his job, and the deaths of an aunt and uncle in a highway accident. Since the incident, Dyck has been seeing a mental health worker.
Noting that Dyck would be spared jail if he’d been referred to a mental health court such as the one that runs in Winnipeg, Hewitt-Michta agreed to impose probation as recommended by Fawcett and Crown attorney Garry Rainnie.
She imposed a two-year suspended sentence with conditions that include counselling and an order to meet with a mental health worker as directed. Dyck will also have to do 75 hours of community service work.
Hewitt-Michta isn’t the only Brandon judge to wish for the Mental Health Court to come to this city. During a previous case, Judge John Combs also suggested that such a court would be a good idea for Brandon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 11, 2012