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Judge suggests mental health court needed on P.E.I.

Provincial Court Judge John Douglas.  -File photo
Provincial Court Judge John Douglas. -File photo

In some places, Jeremy Carlton Phillips would have been dealt with through a mental health court.

That’s not an option on P.E.I.

Instead, Phillips, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, appeared before Judge John Douglas in provincial court in Charlottetown recently where he pleaded guilty to three charges.

Douglas gave him a suspended sentence and one year of probation for assault, unlawful entry and breaching an undertaking.

In doing so, Douglas said in many places Phillips would have been dealt with in a mental health court.

“We don’t have that ability here,” Douglas said.

MORE: See government’s reaction below

The court heard Phillips was an involuntary patient at the Hillsborough Hospital on March 10 when a nurse was having a discussion with him about revoking some of his privileges.

At one point Phillips lunged at the nurse and took a swing at him.

On June 20, Phillips went to the Murphy Community Centre in Charlottetown after hours and managed to push open its sliding doors.

Surveillance video showed Phillips walking around and taking some food.

In a third incident, someone reported to the police that Phillips approached him on the street while yelling and swearing.

The victim also said Phillips took a swing at him, but didn’t connect.

Phillips was on an undertaking at the time and the court heard he has been a Hillsborough Hospital patient since then.

Defence lawyer Thane MacEachern told the court Phillips was diagnosed with schizophrenia and seems to be doing well on new medication he is taking.

MacEachern asked Douglas to look at the case in the context of Phillips’s underlying issues.

If P.E.I. had a mental health court the charges would have been dealt with that way, MacEachern said.

Before handing down the sentence, Douglas said it was possible an assessment would have found Phillips not criminally responsible, but that would have been a costly and lengthy matter.

An assessment would have involved sending Phillips off-Island, and Douglas said he understood why the defence didn’t go with that option.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada Douglas was required to order Phillips to pay $300 in victim surcharges, but he refused to, saying it wouldn’t seem just in that particular case.

Ryan.Ross@tc.tc

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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P.E.I. looking at its options

The P.E.I. government is looking at the option of a therapeutic court and is working with the federal government on potential partnerships, says a statement from the Justice Department.

That statement, in response to a request for an interview with Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is also justice minister, said in some jurisdictions mental health courts are used to ensure people with mental health issues are less impacted by delays in the court system.

“Prince Edward Island does not have issues with court delay or lengthy remand periods,” the statement said.

It also said the government’s new mental health and addictions strategy lays out some of the challenges and solutions in ensuring people have access to timely and effective treatment.

“While we study the need for a therapeutic court in P.E.I., the priority is to ensure that those in contact with the justice system have the mental health supports they need.”

That’s not an option on P.E.I.

Instead, Phillips, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, appeared before Judge John Douglas in provincial court in Charlottetown recently where he pleaded guilty to three charges.

Douglas gave him a suspended sentence and one year of probation for assault, unlawful entry and breaching an undertaking.

In doing so, Douglas said in many places Phillips would have been dealt with in a mental health court.

“We don’t have that ability here,” Douglas said.

MORE: See government’s reaction below

The court heard Phillips was an involuntary patient at the Hillsborough Hospital on March 10 when a nurse was having a discussion with him about revoking some of his privileges.

At one point Phillips lunged at the nurse and took a swing at him.

On June 20, Phillips went to the Murphy Community Centre in Charlottetown after hours and managed to push open its sliding doors.

Surveillance video showed Phillips walking around and taking some food.

In a third incident, someone reported to the police that Phillips approached him on the street while yelling and swearing.

The victim also said Phillips took a swing at him, but didn’t connect.

Phillips was on an undertaking at the time and the court heard he has been a Hillsborough Hospital patient since then.

Defence lawyer Thane MacEachern told the court Phillips was diagnosed with schizophrenia and seems to be doing well on new medication he is taking.

MacEachern asked Douglas to look at the case in the context of Phillips’s underlying issues.

If P.E.I. had a mental health court the charges would have been dealt with that way, MacEachern said.

Before handing down the sentence, Douglas said it was possible an assessment would have found Phillips not criminally responsible, but that would have been a costly and lengthy matter.

An assessment would have involved sending Phillips off-Island, and Douglas said he understood why the defence didn’t go with that option.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada Douglas was required to order Phillips to pay $300 in victim surcharges, but he refused to, saying it wouldn’t seem just in that particular case.

Ryan.Ross@tc.tc

Twitter.com/ryanrross

-------

P.E.I. looking at its options

The P.E.I. government is looking at the option of a therapeutic court and is working with the federal government on potential partnerships, says a statement from the Justice Department.

That statement, in response to a request for an interview with Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is also justice minister, said in some jurisdictions mental health courts are used to ensure people with mental health issues are less impacted by delays in the court system.

“Prince Edward Island does not have issues with court delay or lengthy remand periods,” the statement said.

It also said the government’s new mental health and addictions strategy lays out some of the challenges and solutions in ensuring people have access to timely and effective treatment.

“While we study the need for a therapeutic court in P.E.I., the priority is to ensure that those in contact with the justice system have the mental health supports they need.”

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