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Let's Remember the Real Victim in Greyhound Beheading Case

05/17/2012 05:14 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT

As can be said for most horrific criminal acts, we can only begin to imagine the devastating sense of loss that occurs when told of a child's untimely death. The subsequent heart-wrenching anguish must be even more frustrating when this same parent is repeatedly forced to relive the death of a son every time the bureaucratic penal system mandates that the perpetrator should receive a hearing.

For Tim McLean, whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was a serious systematic breakdown that led to the crime. After being released by mental health experts in Ontario in 2008, Vincent Li, a schizophrenic was allowed to continue on his journey. Along the way, he decapitated McLean on a Greyhound bus. It is here that the story begins. Unfortunately, for McLean's family, a meaningful closure remains a distant hope.

As the circumstances have dictated since 2008, the Manitoba Criminal Review Board met on Monday to determine the mental capacity and state of mind of one Vincent Li. Again, a psychiatrist came to Li's defence, declaring he is a model patient who has shown no security risk within the detention centre.

However, rather than conclude that Li's prior criminal actions posed a serious threat to society, these bureaucratic decision-makers reserved their decision. Within a few days, the board is expected to render a decision that will grant Li unescorted visits into the community.

For Maclean's mother, Carol DeDelley, the systematic injustices condoned by an impenetrable institutional bureaucracy continue. Again, this latest request to the review board remains uncontested by Crown Prosecution. Indeed, Li's own lawyer told the board that "there is no reason not to endorse the recommendations of the [psychiatric] treatment team."

Barring a public outcry, the outcome is a given. Vincent Li will be given access into the community and in the months ahead, he will obtain eventual freedom. At the same time, legislators and the judiciary who are deemed to have a fundamental obligation to protect the citizenry from criminal abuse and similarly have the capacity to develop strict protection measures against barbaric crimes such as Maclean's murder, have unfortunately looked the other way.

Still, the systematic injustices that led to this crime can no longer be tolerated. Justice must also appear to be served. If Maclean was the only individual victimized as a consequence of a failed mental health system, then one might be able to explain one unnecessary preventable death. But Maclean is not the only victim. There are others.

It is for this reason that a broken mother, haunted by the barbaric horror of her son's murder continues to advocate for accountability and transparency when institutional wrong-doing is at fault. It is also why DeDelley continues to demand constructive institutional changes that will prevent future systematic injustices like Li's approved release from occurring again.

She believes that a thorough examination around the complexity of mental illness and criminal activity is necessary in consultation with families and caregivers of individuals suffering from mental health issues. Together, DeDelley believes that a series of recommendations designed to prevent similar barbaric criminal acts in the future -- including a comprehensive discussion around mandated minimum sentences and the quality of care of individuals in mental health institutions -- would be a welcome step forward from the system that exists today.

Most of all, Maclean's mother is demanding that a law be enacted that can effectively serve as a vehicle for restoring fundamental justice and common sense into a burgeoning penal system intent on making the prison system the largest growing industry in Canada. She calls it Tim's Law, and wants it to serve as a subtle reminder that the burden of demanding public institutions and their public service representatives take full responsibility and ownership for their own shortcomings should not fall solely on a grieving parent.

Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the social fabric. DeDelley is optimistic that Tim's law can serve as the starting point for a serious discussion that should have taken place years ago.