Judge determines jailing woman would be rewarding her for her crimes
It’s not every day someone tells a judge they want to go to jail.
But when a 20-year-old woman who was in Chief Judge John Douglas’s courtroom Tuesday asked for jail time she didn’t get her wish.
The woman, who The Guardian has chosen not to name because of her mental health issues, was in provincial in court in Charlottetown facing an assault charge after she punched and bit one of the men caring for her during an excursion from the Hillsborough Hospital.
She is under the guardianship of P.E.I.’s public guardian office and has been a patient at the Hillsborough Hospital for almost three years.
The court heard that during her time in hospital the woman was involved in numerous incidents of self-harm and assault.
That included 36 incidents in 2013 and six in 2014.
On April 15, the woman was out with several hospital employees who were donating items to Value Village in Charlottetown and giving her time to shop. Instead, she ran away. When one of the hospital employees caught up to her she punched him three times and bit him on the calf.
The bite was hard enough to break the skin.
Her goal, the court was told, was to get arrested and moved to jail because she thought it would be an improvement over her situation at the hospital.
Before the sentencing, the woman was sent to Halifax for a mental health assessment where it was determined she was criminally responsible.
When it came to the sentence, the woman and her lawyer disagreed on what should happen to her.
Defence lawyer Thane MacEachern said it was far from a straightforward case.
Because of her behaviour, the woman had spent time confined to a room with only a mattress and two men stationed outside the door for observation, MacEachern said.
“That’s worse than solitary confinement.”
MacEachern said the Hillsborough Hospital was not the place for her, but there was no clear plan in place for the woman, although moving her to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s mental health unit was a possibility.
When the woman addressed the court she said she had been attacking people at the Hillsborough Hospital and has gotten used to being locked in a room by herself.
“I don’t feel like I’ve really been punished for it,” she said.
The woman said she felt if she went back to Hillsborough Hospital she would go back to her same patterns and continue to assault people until she goes to jail.
As Douglas began to explain the sentence he was going to impose, he said it was a very difficult case involving a serious assault.
He also said he wished he had somewhere else to send her.
Sending her to jail would reward the woman so he decided not to give her jail time, Douglas said.
“We don’t send people to jail because they want to go to jail.”
Douglas gave the woman a suspended sentence with one year of probation.