September 04, 2015 - 2:13 PM
VANCOUVER - A British Columbia man who killed his three children will only be allowed to leave his psychiatric hospital for medical reasons or treatment if an application by the Crown succeeds, says the province's Criminal Justice Branch.
The branch announced Friday it had filed an application in B.C. Supreme Court to have Allan Schoenborn declared a "high-risk accused."
Schoenborn was found not criminally responsible for stabbing his 10-year-old daughter and smothering his eight and five-year-old sons in their Merritt, B.C., home in April 2008.
Two years later, he was placed in custody at a psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam, B.C., but this past May the B.C. Review Board granted Schoenborn escorted community outings.
Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said changes in July 2014 to the Criminal Code allow the courts to declare an individual a "high-risk accused."
"The legislation states that a person who has been designated as a high-risk accused will be detained in custody in a hospital," he said. "That's subject to limited exceptions."
"A high-risk accused will only be allowed to be absent from the hospital for medical reasons or for any purpose that's necessary for the accused's treatment."
Changes to the law also mean officials must prepare a "structured plan" to address risks related to the accused's absence and ensure that absence will not put the public at risk, the Criminal Justice Branch said in a statement.
The review board can also extend the time between annual hearings to 36 months.
"However, it is important to note it's only available if the accused person consents or if it's a situation where the review board is satisfied that the condition of the accused isn't likely to improve and that the detention remains necessary," MacKenzie said.
To get the designation, the Crown must show the accused will likely use violence that could endanger the life or safety of others, he said. Or, it must show the accused's offences were so brutal that they risk serious physical or psychological harm to others.
A spokesman for Schoenborn was not immediately available. A lawyer who represented him at the review board said he is no longer on the case.
Dave Teixeira, a spokesman for the children's family, said their mother and other relatives are elated by the application.
"This is something the family's wanted for years and years," he said. "They're the ones who first proposed a high-risk designation status, if you will, to the federal government."
He said the family can get some peace of mind without having to endure annual reviews, and Schoenborn can get more treatment.
"The goal on our side is to have this all complete before May of 2016, which is when Alan Schoenborn will have his next hearing," Teixeira said.
The first date for the case is scheduled for next Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Attorney General Suzanne Anton said in a statement that she and British Columbians sympathize with Darcie Clarke, the children's mother.
"I hope they’re able to find some comfort resulting from this decision by Crown counsel," she said. "I can't imagine what an ordeal this has been for them over the past number of years."
Anton said the B.C. government is concerned about community safety and has been instrumental in calling for legislative changes that address the needs of victims and the public.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015