Discharge premature despite progress in addressing mental illness: court

Non-acceptance of mental illness may affect willingness to continue medication absent supervision

Discharge premature despite progress in addressing mental illness: court
Willingness to continue medication absent supervision is important in deciding to allow discharge

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has ruled that an individual’s progress in addressing her mental illness while under direct supervision was insufficient to justify a discharge from a detention order.

In Pickering (Re), 2022 ONCA 26, Pickering was found not criminally responsible and was subject to a detention order due to her schizophrenic illness requiring medication. On review, the Ontario Review Board ruled that the detention order should continue since Pickering continued to pose a significant threat to public safety. Pickering appealed, claiming that considering her progress, the Board should have awarded an absolute or, at least, a conditional discharge.

The appellate court disagreed.

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The board’s decision had sufficient evidentiary basis, said the court, as it found that Pickering had yet to fully accept that she had an illness and this may have affected her willingness to continue medication absent supervision. There was also the concern that she might start using substances such as drugs or alcohol that would “accelerate the decompensation of her mental state,” said the court.

Further, the court ruled that Pickering’s progress — which she submitted was indicative of her potential conduct in the community — was due to the direct supervision and control of the hospital. The board agreed with the psychiatrist that “it was premature to permit the appellant unsupervised and unrestrained access to the community,” said the court.

Lastly, the appellate court considered that since the next annual review was about a month away, the board would have the opportunity to further evaluate Pickering’s progress and determine whether the detention order should continue.

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