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Fate of man who decapitated fellow bus passenger may not be made public

WINNIPEG - The public may never know if a man who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus will be kept in an institution or given a conditional release.

WINNIPEG - The public may never know if a man who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus will be kept in an institution or given a conditional release.

The chairman of Manitoba's criminal code review board says such details about Vince Li's fate could violate his rights as a patient.

The board is to meet Monday to determine what will happen to Li, who was found not criminally responsible for the grisly killing of Tim McLean on a bus heading to Winnipeg last July.

The board hearing is open to the public, chairman John Stefaniuk said Tuesday. But government lawyers have advised against releasing any details about its rulings.

The lawyers say releasing such decisions could violate a patient's right to privacy, but that advice hasn't been tested, Stefaniuk said.

"It's something that the board is currently investigating," he told The Canadian Press. "We have advice from our legal counsel through Manitoba Justice that our decisions and reasons for decision are subject to restrictions ... We have to keep our orders and dispositions confidential because of the patient privacy issues."

McLean's mother said keeping Li's fate secret would be another example of his rights trumping those of her son. Carol deDelley said the idea that Li deserves privacy as a patient "boggles my mind."

"Therein lies the problem - I believe that he should be treated as a criminal not a patient," she said. "The frustration that comes with that is overwhelming."

A judge ruled in March that Li suffered from untreated schizophrenia and did not understand that what he was doing was wrong when he attacked the 22-year-old carnival worker on a bus near Portage la Prairie, Man. An agreed statement of facts read in court detailed how Li heard the "voice of God" telling him to kill McLean.

Li attacked the young man, who fought back unsuccessfully, stabbing him dozens of times and scattering his body parts around the bus. Psychiatrists who testified at Li's trial said he is responding to medication but still poses a risk to himself and the public.

The review board has been studying court documents, police reports and victim impact statements in anticipation of the hearing. It will be allowed to call psychiatrists to testify about Li's mental state, and statements from the McLean family could be read into the record.

The board should issue a decision several days later to Li, the hospital where Li is institutionalized and the Crown lawyer - but not necessarily to the public, Stefaniuk said. After that, Li's mental health will be assessed each year by the same board to determine whether any conditions placed upon him should be eased.

Board members understand there is intense interest in Li's case, Stefaniuk said.

"We're very sensitive to that. I note that in Ontario the decisions are published ... and likewise in British Columbia - they're available online."

Alan Libman, Li's lawyer, said he wasn't aware the board had been advised to keep its rulings private.

"The review board hasn't bothered to inform me ... nor seek Mr. Li's counsel's opinion on the matter," he said.

McLean's family is lobbying for changes to the criminal justice system so people who are found not criminally responsible aren't ever released.

Few people, however, expect Li will be granted freedom next week.

The 40-year-old Chinese immigrant has expressed remorse and wants to get better, Libman said.

"Mr. Li is very committed to working with his treatment team," he said. "Mr. Li is very committed to gaining insight into his illness and Mr. Li is very committed to working very hard so that one day he can resume his place in society."

 
 
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