Vernon woman found not criminally responsible for attempted child abduction - InfoNews

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Vernon woman found not criminally responsible for attempted child abduction

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October 31, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - A Vernon woman with a long history of mental health issues and violent tendencies was found not guilty on account of mental disorder for attempting to abduct a local child.

In two B.C. Supreme Court decisions, Justice Keith Bracken lays out her crimes, self-harm and violence suffered, going back to 2000 and provides a clear example of the difficulties the authorities face when dealing with people with mental illness.

Gabriel Hunter Gibson, believed to be 35 years old at the time of her latest offence, developed psychosis in her teens, according to the Bracken decision. Since 2000, she has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals, committed numerous crimes — many of them with violence, including two earlier attempts to abduct a baby and a child — and suicide attempts.

Despite the lengthy history and past findings that she was unfit for trial or not criminally responsible, she instructed her lawyer to argue that she should be sentenced for her latest crime in the normal way and to oppose the not guilty on account of mental disorder argument advanced by the Crown.

In late September, Bracken originally found her guilty of taking or attempting to take a child and committing assault on the child. In Oct. 11, 2016, Gibson was on a Vernon city bus after using methamphetamine and marijuana. She had a brief conversation with the child and his guardian and later told investigators or mental health professionals that something about the boy’s jacket made her believe the boy “was trying to prove that he was part of her family” and came to believe the young boy was her son.

When the woman tried to get off the bus with her grandson, Gibson put her hand on the boy’s shoulder and said “You’re coming home with me. You are my boy now,” or words to that effect. When bystanders intervened to protect the boy and his grandmother, Gibson left the bus and called 911 to report that they took her child. 

After the guilty finding, the Crown applied to have her found not guilty because of her mental illness. A forensic psychiatrist was called to explain her long history and why she needs care.

In 2000, she made her first suicide attempt and jumped from the roof of a four-storey parkade, suffering extensive injuries to her back. Over the next 18 years, she would also overdose, electrocute herself and strangle herself in suicide attempts.

In 2001, she was arrested for car theft but when she couldn’t follow court orders, she was sent to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital, as it was known then, based on her earlier suicide attempt.

In 2002, she was discharged and followed by mental health workers as she returned to Vernon to live with her mother, but she was charged with assaulting her mother a short time later. She was returned to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and back to Riverview again. She remained in one hospital or another until January 2003 when “she was discharged against medical advice by a review panel,” Bracken noted.

That same year, she was the victim of an assault and suffered serious injuries. She was treated at Kelowna General Hospital, then back to Vernon where she went AWOL, then transferred back to Riverview.

“Once again, she was discharged against medical advice by the review panel,” Bracken says.

She returned to Vernon in 2004 and was arrested for crashing a stolen car. She was found fit to stand trial, convicted and placed on probation.

She was in psychiatric hospitals for the next three years, but often went AWOL. In 2007, she was returned to hospital after attempting to abduct a baby. Another time she was returned after attempting to break into a boat.

In 2009, she was back in the Okanagan and facing another offence when she was charged with assault a Corrections Officer at the Surrey Pre-Trial Correctional Centre. She was later found unfit to stand trial on those offences. She underwent several more psychiatric assessments, including after another incident when she punched someone she wanted to rent an apartment from. She was found Not Criminally Responsible for that offence.

In June 2010, she tried to abduct another child in Vernon. She saw a boy in a restaurant and called police to determine if it was her son. Before heading back to Vernon hospital and Riverview again, she said she had “many ‘angel’ children, and transformed her pet cat into a child.”

In 2011, she was again found Not Criminally Responsible for that offence and went back to Riverview for several years until she appealed her conviction and was transferred back to Vernon again in 2014.

The forensic psychiatrist said she has schizo-affective disorder, bipolar type and substance abuse disorder but she is resistant to treatment, which at times has been effective.

Bracken said the forensic psychiatrist made clear Gibson could not mentally understand the crimes she committed and is certifiable under the Mental Health Act.

Because she committed a violent crime, Bracken had the option of crafting requirements for her care and detention for the B.C. Review Board, but left it to them to decide what happens next.


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