On April 18, 2013 the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA), in consultation with members of the Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, issued an Information Release on the “Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act.” In their release, the CPA takes the position that the, “…not criminally responsible (NCR) provisions of the criminal code are functioning well and do not need major reform.” While the CPA supports the victim notification components of the Bill, it is concerned that the requirements may cause procedural slowdowns, tying up NCR mental health beds and services. The CPA urges the federal government to adopt additional victim supports and restorative justice approaches. It also encourages alternative supports because some victims feel re-victimized by participation in the offender’s release process.
The CPA does not support the creation of a “high-risk accused” category, stating that its implementation will not achieve the goal of increased public safety and will increase stigma surrounding mental illness. Furthermore, the CPA believes that this proposed category will introduce an element of punishment into the NCR system and remove therapeutic approaches such as escorted community passes. This has the potential to frustrate patients, diminish the psychiatrist/patient relationship and perhaps increase the risk to public safety.
In fact, because of the “high risk” category and the changes to the criminal code, the CPA warns that some individuals may be more likely to plead guilty to an offence rather than use mental illness as a defence. This will result in more people with serious mental illness entering the prison system rather than hospital, where treatment for their disorder should be given.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association Information Release is available on the Canadian Psychiatric Association website.