III. Common reactions from victims

It is common for victims, including victims of persons found NCRMD or UST, to wonder why they were victimized or why they were the target of this behaviour. If you are a victim, a family member, a neighbour, a friend, or a work colleague, you have likely been deeply affected. It can be very difficult to make sense of the situation and it is natural to feel a range of emotions as a result.

Like other victims of crime, many people who have been the victim in a case where the accused is found UST or NCRMD report feeling anxious or worried that they could be victimized again. Victims may be angry that the patient was in such a state to commit the crime when they should have been on medication, in treatment, or under close supervision. Some people may be angry that the individual is not being punished and sent to prison.

A large number of victims are family members of the mentally ill person. This is often a difficult situation to manage because victims are caught between caring for the patient and wanting to help them recover while at the same time needing to manage their own and their family’s safety. Most victims speak about the frustration they feel in this situation. Family members may be frustrated that they were not able to find help for their loved one before the incident.

Victims may find it helpful to learn more about the forensic mental health system and the requirements under the law for a person who has been found NCRMD or UST. Doing so can help you be better prepared to navigate your way through this system, understand decisions made by doctors and the Review Board, and to seek supports when you may require them.

Lori’s story

My two and a half year old son was murdered in 1997 while he was playing with his best friend. Our neighbour came out of her house with a large kitchen knife tucked under her cape and stabbed my little boy 12 times. My beautiful boy died as a result of his injuries and the offender, who was 60 years old at the time of the act, suffered from a serious mental illness called paranoid schizophrenia. Her delusions led her to believe that the spirit of her own dead son lived within my son. She stabbed him numerous times to release her son’s spirit. She was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD).

The accused had a history of erratic behaviour. Over the years, she had come in contact with hospitals, various doctors and psychiatrists, and the police, but she was never properly assessed or treated. We had called the police to our home more than a dozen times with the hope of having her apprehended and assessed. Her daughter also tried, without success, to have her mother apprehended, assessed, and put into treatment, but she, too, continually hit barriers.

In our initial meetings with the Crown, I recall a charge of first-degree murder. Later, when the defence entered a plea of NCR, it was a friend, a criminal defence lawyer, who worked tirelessly to help me understand what this meant. No one within the criminal justice system clearly explained this to me. A forensic psychiatrist did try to explain her mental state. We were told we could attend her Review Board hearings. That is about all we were told. We have never attended a hearing but we were usually, but not always, informed of the disposition. We did not feel the need to attend; and I feared that seeing the accused, who remained delusional, would be traumatizing. The Crown did request that the accused not be allowed to enter in our community to avoid an accidental run in. I did submit a written victim impact statement some 13 years later, given our lawyer had indicated the plan for the accused to live in the community. She was released into the community for a short time – but deteriorated and was returned to the hospital. The experience (writing the statement) was tough but I did feel it was positive as it allowed me to share my concerns, which related largely to public safety. I felt I had some information that the parties involved might not have been aware of or considered important, for example, that the accused’s daughter (who they often suggested might be person in charge upon her release) was home with the accused when she walked out and killed our son.