Mental Health in the Courts – Part 3: The NCR Defence

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To be convicted of a crime in Canada a person must be able to understand that their behaviour was wrong. That is, he or she cannot be convicted if the person was suffering from a mental disorder that rendered him or her incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.  This is the NCR Defence, or “Not Criminally Responsible”.

This defence is rare, although there was recently a case in Calgary where it was used in a tragic multiple murder.

The defence does not allow a person to bypass consequences. The person is held for treatment at a secure psychiatric facility and must appear before a provincial Review Board on a regular basis. The Review Board will monitor the person on a continuing basis and can place conditions and restrictions on the person to ensure the person is not a significant threat to the safety of the public. In very serious cases, the Crown may apply to have the person designated a “high risk accused”, which limits the person’s privileges and mandates that the court review the case before release plans are implemented.

There are three dispositions available to a Review Board: an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge or detention in a psychiatric facility. In making the determination, the Review Board will look at whether or not the person is a significant threat to the safety of the public, which means a risk of serious physical or psychological harm to members of the public.

NCR is the outcome in less than one in a thousand cases in Canada:

Mental illness can be a tragic and devastating occurrence. If you or a loved one are faced with a criminal case where the ravages of mental illness may have robbed a person of their faculties contact Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer, Maureen McConaghy for a free initial consultation.