Mur­der ac­cused fit for trial

Deemed not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

Al­though a psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment has deemed a 40-year-old Gar­diner Mines man charged with first-de­gree mur­der fit to stand trial, it has also con­cluded the ac­cused was not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions.

Richard Wayne McNeil, 40, is charged in the death of 33-yearold Sara­beth

Ann Forbes whose re­mains were found

April 18 in­side a home the cou­ple shared with their young son on

O’Brien Street in Gar­diner Mines.

McNeil made a brief pro­vin­cial court ap­pear­ance Fri­day in Syd­ney af­ter un­der­go­ing a 30-day psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment at the East Coast Forensic Hospi­tal in Dart­mouth.

The as­sess­ment was ini­tially re­quested by de­fence lawyer Dar­lene MacRury af­ter McNeil fam­ily mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern over the men­tal health of the ac­cused.

MacRury told the court that McNeil had been di­ag­nosed with para­noid schizophre­nia.

She also noted that her client’s be­hav­iour while on re­mand was de­scribed as a dis­con­nect from re­al­ity and that he does not ap­pear to be fully ap­pre­ci­at­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fence.

The as­sess­ment de­ter­mined that while McNeil is men­tally fit to stand trial, he does fall within the guide­lines of be­ing not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions.

Un­der Cana­dian law, a men­tal dis­or­der is de­fined as a dis­ease of the mind.

How­ever, an of­fender found to suf­fer from a men­tal dis­or­der is not au­to­mat­i­cally ex­cused from crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity as such a find­ing rests with a judge.

The law dic­tates an ac­cused must have the ca­pac­ity to un­der­stand that their be­hav­iour was wrong in or­der to be found guilty of an of­fence.

A per­son found not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble be­cause of a men­tal dis­or­der means that at the time of the of­fence, the in­di­vid­ual was not ca­pa­ble of ap­pre­ci­at­ing the na­ture and qual­ity of the act or knew it was wrong.

Such a find­ing should not be viewed as an ac­quit­tal as the of­fender is com­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric fa­cil­ity for treat­ment.

Their re­lease is sub­ject to a re­view panel’s de­ter­mi­na­tion on when they can be re­leased and un­der what con­di­tions.

Dur­ing Fri­day’s hear­ing, MacRury and pros­e­cu­tors Steve Drake and Glen Gouthro agreed that McNeil should be re­manded back to the East Coast Forensic Cen­tre which is bet­ter equipped to main­tain his men­tal fit­ness than a pro­vin­cial jail.

The Crown is also ex­pected to have its own psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment of McNeil to de­ter­mine whether a sim­i­lar find­ing of not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble is reached.

McNeil is now sched­uled to re­turn to pro­vin­cial court June 23.


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