Conditional discharge denied for man with schizophrenia responsible for stabbing

Review board meaningfully considered and analyzed evidence, made reasonable decision

Conditional discharge denied for man with schizophrenia responsible for stabbing

The Ontario Court of Appeal has declined to issue a conditional discharge order for a man who killed someone abroad and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, despite his significant recent progress.

In Zhan (Re), 2022 ONCA 42, the appellant, while on probation, attacked and fatally stabbed a stranger on a street in Glasgow, Scotland, allegedly in response to voices telling him that the stranger was a zombie who would kill him.

The appellant was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was treated with antipsychotic medication. He was detained in a Scotland hospital and then repatriated to Canada. The appellant had a documented history of failing to comply with treatment and with supervisory orders but also had a positive reporting year.

The Ontario Review Board, accepting the hospital’s recommendation, refused to order a conditional discharge for the appellant. The review board found that such an order would be inappropriate, given that there was ample evidence that the appellant presented a significant threat.

On appeal, the appellant contended that the review board’s order was incorrect and unreasonable because a properly crafted conditional discharge would help to safely manage his risk factors. The Court of Appeal for Ontario, dismissing the appeal, held that the review board meaningfully considered and analyzed the evidence and reached a reasonable decision.

The review board accepted that the appellant had recently made significant and enormous progress, but found that it was reasonable, in the context of the risks to public safety, to maintain the detention order so that there would be an opportunity to test him within the community. The appellate court noted that the fact that the appellant had only been living in the community for a few days was critical to the review board’s decision.

There were concerns, expressed by the hospital and well-documented by the evidence, that the appellant was slow to detect or acknowledge problems arising due to the additional stress caused by his new independence. The appellant’s potential inability to fully grasp the effects of negative stressors could lead to decompensation, the appellate court said.

It was important to be able to quickly return the appellant to the hospital while he was still adjusting, given his demonstrated risk to the public if his symptoms returned and his history of minimizing negatives and overemphasizing positives.

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