NCR 101: The basics of not criminally responsible

04/19/2013 10:17 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT
NCR 101: The basics of not criminally responsible

It's not a guilty verdict, but it's not an acquittal either. A person can only be found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder if they were incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their actions. It's not enough to be mentally ill, the person's mental disorder has to have deprived them of the ability to know what they did was wrong.

Once someone is declared NCR they fall under the review board system. Review board panels, made up of at least five members including at least one psychiatrist, hold an initial assessment hearing not long after an NCR verdict. At that hearing they determine whether the person should be detained in a psychiatric hospital, allowed to live in the community under certain conditions or completely set free.

Absolute discharges, as they are called, are granted when the board is satisfied the person no longer poses a "significant" threat to public safety. If the person remains under the purview of the board they have regular annual hearings at which the board hears updates from the person's treating psychiatrist and decides what disposition to order. Special hearings can also be held, such as in the case of a person asking permission to attend a funeral. Decisions of review boards are subject to review by each province's appeal court.