B.C. attorney-general requests end to annual NCR reviews

B.C.’s attorney-general Barry Penner is calling for the federal government to abolish one-year reviews for killers who are found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder (NCR). Barry Penner met Thursday with federal counterpart Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to discuss the proposal which seeks to eliminate annual reviews for killers found NCR.

The attorney-general says the request stems from a meeting earlier this year with Darcie Clarke, who says she is haunted by the fact that her ex-husband will come up for a review every year, making her re-live the nightmare of her children’s murders.

In 2008, while visiting the home of his estranged wife, Alan Schoenborn stabbed to death his daughter Kaitlynne, 10, and smothered his sons Max, 8, and Cordon, 5. He was found not criminally responsible and it caused an public outcry when months after the ruling, the BC criminal review board ruled that Schoenborn should have increased freedoms into the community.

“I suggested it should be every three years or five years, or earlier if the treating psychiatrist says there is a marked improvement,” Penner said. He urged the justice minister to consider abolishing annual reviews for “those who committed heinous acts, such as taking another person’s life or committing a serious assault.”

Penner would like to see other changes to Criminal Code Section 672, which governs those found not criminally responsible for their crimes because they were mentally ill at the time. He wants to make sure more than one psychiatrist is on the review board panel when making a decision on when to release a patient into the community, even on escorted passes.

There should be at least two psychiatrists “and maybe make it a panel of three so you don’t have a tie vote,” Penner said.

The justice minister seemed receptive to the proposed changes, Penner said.