NEWS

Bus killer's supervised outings raise safety concerns

05/18/2012 06:35 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Some people in a small Manitoba city are worried now that Vince Li, the man who beheaded a Greyhound bus passenger in 2008, will be making supervised visits there.

The Manitoba Review Board has granted Li short, escorted passes from the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, where he has been committed since 2009.

Li, who has schizophrenia, was sent to the mental hospital after he was found not criminally responsible of killing Tim McLean, 22, who was a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus on July 30, 2008.

The review board's ruling, issued on Thursday, said Li's supervised outings into Selkirk can be 30 minutes long to start, then gradually become up to a day long.

Li must be escorted during those excursions by one hospital staff member and one security or peace officer, the board said.

Some residents of Selkirk, a city of about 9,800 located north of Winnipeg, say they are still nervous about having him in their community.

"I don't feel the community is safe with him walking around," one man told CBC News late Thursday.

"I guess I would be a little hesitant, but am I being unfair?" a woman asked.

Usually kept in locked ward

Li has been kept inside a locked ward of the mental hospital, located within Selkirk.

After an annual review of his treatment in 2010, he was granted short supervised walks on the hospital grounds.

Last year, the review board decided to gradually increase those hospital walks to several hours in length.

Recently, Li's doctors have said he is on medication and not experiencing any symptoms or hallucinations.

Li is considered to have a 0.8 per cent chance of reoffending violently in the next seven years, they said.

Earlier this week, the doctors told the board Li is responding well to treatment and is ready to leave the locked ward.

"Freedom for him? I don't think that should ever be an option. Not ever, if somebody is that unpredictably dangerous," said Carol de Delley, McLean's mother.

Public safety vs. patients' rights

De Delley has been lobbying the federal government to change the laws that deal with mentally ill killers who are sent to hospitals instead of prisons.

"Keep them in a locked facility for the rest of their natural days," she said.

But Jane Burpee of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society said people with mental illness have rights, so a balance is needed.

"The pendulum has swung way too much on the 'lock him up' side. We certainly do not endorse that," Burpee said.

"It's not just because I'm working for the schizophrenia society," she added. "There has to be compassion when there is mental illness."

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said on Thursday that he is reviewing the Criminal Code to see how public safety can be balanced with the rights of those found not criminally responsible for their actions.

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