There’s no word yet about whether Brandon will see a Mental Health Court such as the one that has been established in Winnipeg, even though at least two Brandon judges have suggested such a court would benefit the local area.
A Manitoba Justice spokesman said he’s not aware of any plans for expansion at this point and it may be simply too early to consider.
“The Winnipeg court has really just started operating, but there’s no question that expansion will be part of what they look at when they review the Winnipeg court,” the spokesman said.
No timeline for any possible review was given, and a comment from the office of Justice Minister Andrew Swan wasn’t immediately available on Tuesday.
The Mental Health Court, which diverts accused with mental health issues from the regular justice system, heard its first case in May.
Accused plead guilty to their charges and are placed on bail while they take treatment.
If treatment is successful, the charges against them are stayed or they receive non-jail sentences.
Shorty before the court began, Swan indicated that the program could eventually expand beyond the provincial capital.
Meanwhile, at least two judges have expressed hope that the program will come to Brandon.
In April, even before the court in Winnipeg had heard its first case, Brandon Judge John Combs said such a court would be useful here.
Combs made his comment as he sentenced a woman who’d assaulted a corrections officer at the Brandon jail.
The woman was intoxicated at the time but also had borderline personality disorder and was suspected to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Then, on Monday, Judge Shauna Hewitt-Michta also said it’s unfortunate that the program isn’t available here.
She made her comment as she sentenced a man for pulling a knife on a gas station employee.
The offender on that case has a disorder that affects his judgment, and may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The accused in both these cases received probationary sentences.
However, Swan previously noted that such sentences aren’t ideal because an offender may be charged if they slip up and breach conditions.
The Mental Health Court gives accused more leeway as they follow a plan developed by a special treatment team.
The program isn’t available for people charged with serious violent offences.
And, if an offender messes up too often as they undergo treatment, they’ll be sent back to the regular court system.
Swan also noted that offenders and accused from Westman could, technically, be referred to the Winnipeg Mental Health Court.
However, the required frequent court appearances would mean locals would have to travel or relocate to Winnipeg to benefit from a program that can take a year to two to complete.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 12, 2012