POLITICS

Release hearing for man who killed his children goes 'down the rabbit hole'

04/29/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 08/06/2015 07:59 EDT
COQUITLAM, B.C. - A hearing that was to focus on the limited release of a man who killed his children splintered into a verbal duel on Wednesday between a Crown lawyer and the head of British Columbia's psychiatric hospital.

Allan Schoenborn's annual review was dominated by a barrage of questions to medical director Dr. Johann Brink, sidelining whether the man who murdered his three children should be granted tightly controlled leave.

The hearing meant to determine if Schoenborn should be granted escorted outings was instead characterized by raised voices and several objections against Crown lawyer Wendy Dawson.

"I'd like to ... show that a more comprehensive risk assessment ought to have been done by this hospital," Dawson replied.

B.C. Review Board chairman Barry Long admonished Dawson for irrelevance repeatedly, and at one point said the proceeding was "going down the rabbit hole."

Dawson, who is representing the Crown for the first time at a review, defended her position that the hospital has "insufficiently" assessed the threat that Schoenborn poses to public safety. She grilled Brink on his 53-page C.V., numerous studies that he co-authored and the directives he gives to psychiatrists delivering treatment at the hospital.

Earlier on Wednesday, the proceedings briefly heard from Schoenborn, 46, about his request and he declared it was his "right" not to answer questions.

"All (the) questions were answered in trial already," Schoenborn told the board in an outburst.

Most review hearings take about half a day, instead the Crown's adversarial strategy has forced the board to set aside five days.

Schoenborn has been waiting since February to learn whether he'll be allowed day passes into Coquitlam, in suburban Vancouver.

B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch has said Dawson would be gathering updated information at the hearing about the man's mental condition, which it would use to decide whether to seek a new "high risk" designation in B.C. Supreme Court.

The label only came into effect after the federal government passed legislation last year that means someone who committed a crime while mentally ill, like Schoenborn, could be locked up indefinitely.

Schoenborn was found not criminally responsible in the killings of his daughter and two sons on account of mental disorder, with the trial judge finding he suffered from psychosis at the time.

He stabbed his 10-year-old Kaitlynne, and smothered eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon, inside their Merritt, B.C., home in April 2008.

Schoenborn's psychiatrist, Dr. Marcel Hediger, had recommended the man be allowed escorted outings with Brink's agreement.

"Dr. Brink has said over and over and over that this isn't like a dangerous offender," said Debbie Levitt, the hospital's lawyer.

Brink told the board the hospital has had a 99 per cent success based on how it evaluates risk.

"I take it extremely seriously, the risk decisions we make," he said.

The board's chairman opted to end the hearing early so Schoenborn could prepare to be questioned more thoroughly on Thursday. Schoenborn is not required to speak, but the tribunal may ask him questions.

Outside the hearing, a cousin of the children's mother said she doesn't believe escorted passes will help Schoenborn get better.

Stacy Galt said he's shown "no growth" over the five years he's been institutionalized.

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