05/17/2012 05:18 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Bus beheader Vince Li wins right to escorted trips into community

WINNIPEG - A man who beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba has won his bid to leave the grounds of the mental hospital where he is being kept.

A Criminal Code review board has ruled that Vince Li's treatment team may grant him short escorted trips into Selkirk.

The review board says the passes will start at 30 minutes and increase incrementally to a maximum of full days.

The board also says the passes should only be granted if Li's treatment team believes his condition is stable and that it would be "appropriate and safe for him to leave the locked ward."

Li will have to be escorted at all times by a staff member and a security officer.

"It's terrible. It's disgusting," Nadine McLean, the victim's stepmother, said Thursday after she learned about the decision.

"It's kind of a waste going to the review board every year when he's going to get whatever he asks for."

The passes can be issued starting May 24.

Li was found not criminally responsible for the July 2008 death of Tim McLean, a young carnival worker who was sitting next to Li on a bus near Portage la Prairie.

Li was initially confined to a locked wing of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, but in 2010 was given the right to escorted walks on the hospital grounds.

Li's psychiatrist says the 44-year-old has responded well to treatment and asked the review board earlier this week to let Li take trips into town.

The Crown did not oppose the idea, but the victim's mother, Carol DeDelley, said Li should never be allowed out in public.

Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said Thursday he has to respect the decision of the board. The mental hospital has been in community for years and other patients who committed horrific acts have likely been walking around the city before.

"I just hope they've made the right decision," he said. "I have to worry about the safety of all the citizens in Selkirk."

McLean had his eyes closed and was listening to music on his headphones when Li, a stranger who was sitting beside him, suddenly stood up and started stabbing him.

As the bus stopped and horrified passengers fled, Li carved up McLean's body and ate portions of it.

Li's trial was told he was an untreated schizophrenic.

His first walks on the hospital grounds were under the watchful eyes of two staff. But conditions imposed on Li are reviewed annually and, last year, the board ruled that Li could go outside with only one escort.

As part of this year's review, Li's psychiatrist, Dr. Steven Kremer, told the review board that there "is no evidence that (Li) harbours any delusional belief and ... he recognizes he has schizophrenia.''

Kremer described Li as a model patient, who has shown no security risks and who has participated in treatment programs and taken up odd jobs at the hospital.

Kremer told the hearing that Li understands "that if he does not take his medication, there would be a deterioration.''

Days after the hearing, Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced he has asked officials to review the Criminal Code section dealing with people found not criminally responsible. He said public safety must come first.

DeDelley has said Li should never be allowed to leave the hospital. She suggested again this week that unless Li is under constant supervision, there is no guarantee that he will continue to take his medication.

Li emigrated from China in 2001 and worked menial jobs in Winnipeg. He moved to Edmonton in 2006 and was on his way back to Winnipeg when he killed McLean.

— With files from Chris Purdy in Edmonton