BRITISH COLUMBIA

Allan Schoenborn Day Trip Decision Won't Be Challenged: Province

06/12/2015 03:39 EDT | Updated 06/12/2016 05:59 EDT
RCMP
VANCOUVER - The Crown will not block a mentally ill British Columbia man who killed his three children from escorted outings into the community, but it has left the door open for obtaining an order that could lock him up indefinitely.

The province's Criminal Justice Branch said Friday it would not appeal a decision by the B.C. Review Board granting Allan Schoenborn short supervised excursions.

Three senior lawyers concluded there was no sufficient legal basis for challenging the independent tribunal — a finding that infuriated the victims' family and drew acceptance, but displeasure, from B.C.'s justice minister.

"None of us are terribly happy about this," Suzanne Anton told reporters, though adding she does support the decision.

"The question on appeal is a different question — whether there's a legal basis for an appeal — and the branch has concluded there is not."

But a statement by the justice branch also highlighted the possibility it may still launch a bid in B.C. Supreme Court for a "high-risk accused" designation for Schoenborn, which if successful would give the review board several new powers.

For example, the label would mean the board could wait for three years between hearings reviewing his case, or even hold him at the psychiatric hospital with no plan for release.

Those powers were created by the Conservative government with Bill C-14, which took effect last July. The legislation has been repeatedly held up by the family as an avenue for their version of justice over the course of Schoenborn's protracted hearing this year.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge found Schoenborn was suffering psychosis when he stabbed his 10-year-old daughter and smothered his two sons, who were eight and five, in their Merritt, B.C., home.

He was found not criminally responsible for the deaths on account of mental disorder in February 2010.

Darcie Clarke, the mother of the dead children, lambasted the B.C. government on Friday for not pushing the review board to use the new legislation.

"We thought the B.C. government was our partner in this fight. (The) decision shows they are willing to pay victims lip service but not back it up with their administrative nor legal power," she said in an online statement.

"Now, the B.C. government supports a system that keeps victims out-of-mind."

The family held a news conference in Port Coquitlam, B.C., which was supported by the city's mayor and a B.C. Opposition critic.

Stacy Galt, Clarke's cousin, said she resides only 10 minutes from the hospital where Schoenborn lives in custody.

"I fought so hard, and when I heard this decision all I could think was, 'No, this can't be, something's wrong here,'" she said. "Still I keep hope that the people in power will help me."

Anton replied by outlining a situation in which her hands are tied, but stated she intends to continue talking with federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay about the Schoenborn case. The government has raised the tragedy to shore up its tough-on-crime agenda.

The ruling was made in late May by a three-member panel that spent one month deliberating over a decision that usually takes less than a day.

The board's ruling gives the hospital director discretion to direct trained staff to escort Schoenborn on highly managed trips into a nearby city in suburban Vancouver.

— Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

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