Social worker Mary Liz Greene is relieved the province is opening its first court to help people with mental health illnesses.
However, she also worries those who need it the most may not end up appearing before the special judge because they simply don’t know any better.
“That lack of insight is quite embedded” the Dartmouth woman said Thursday of strong delusions suffered by those with sicknesses such as schizoaffective disorder. Among those is her 24-year-old son, John Candow, who is now in the East Coast Forensic Hospital after trying to strangle her. “Only by the grace of God, he loosened his grip and I bolted,” she said.
“They’re not responsible for their actions.”
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Yet the new service announced by the Nova Scotia Government requires those who access it to first accept responsibility for their criminal actions.
Inside the under-construction courtroom at Dartmouth provincial court, Justice Minister Ross Landry said clients must also “agree to follow a community treatment plan developed to address their specific needs.”
Greene said it’s great to have another avenue for her son, who would likely take responsibility since he believes he’s part of a criminal organization tasked with killing her.
Landry said the new court will “look at offenders and their illness, not just their crime,” with the goal of collecting cases that may have fallen through the cracks.
He said the mental health court will open Nov. 2, and Judge Bill MacDonald will hear cases recommended by a team of experts every Monday.
Steering committee chairwoman Judith McPhee explained “if someone truly feels they didn’t commit the offence of which they are charged, they have the opportunity to stay in the trial court,” which can then refer them to the mental health court.
Greene said her son can’t be punished like a criminal because it would feed into his delusion.
“He’s not a criminal,” she said. “He’s a mentally ill person.”