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P.E.I. chief judge urges mental health patient to curb violent behaviour

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A judge told a mental health patient it is time to stop lashing out violently when the day is not going her way.

Chief Provincial Court Judge Nancy Orr suspended sentence Friday for the young woman who pleaded guilty to two counts of assault.

Orr placed the woman, who The Guardian has chosen not to name because of the nature of her mental health issues, on 12 months of probation, ordering her to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

“So, there are lots of things to work on…no biting, no assaults, no punches,’’ said the judge.

The woman was living in a small-options home, which is a house for people who need more intensive supports than in a group home, when she committed the first assault on Sept. 8.

The woman punched another resident in the face and told staff at the home she had thoughts of killing her father.

On Sept. 15, she was in the Hillsborough Hospital when she assaulted a staff member who opened the door to her room.

In early February, Orr delayed sentencing and subpoenaed two health officials after the Hillsborough Hospital refused to provide records on the woman.

In court that day, defence lawyer Thane MacEachern said there was no case plan in place for his client.

“These are behavioural issues I don’t think will go away any time soon.’’ -Thane MacEachern

On Friday, Health P.E.I. CAO Verna Ryan was called to the stand to help set the record straight. Ryan said the woman’s case plan was recently updated with an enhanced care team that includes two counsellors to better address the woman’s issues.

MacEachern called the new interventions for his client important and timely.

“These are behavioural issues I don’t think will go away any time soon,’’ he said.

The woman was moved to her own space after the unit she was on at Hillsborough Hospital closed for renovations, which the court heard Friday could go beyond June before completion.

Ryan said the woman is currently in a secure unit of the Hillsborough Hospital, living in a large room with a bed, sitting area and bathroom.

Her privileges, which include going out on passes twice a week, use of the institution’s gym and phone calls to her mother and friends, can be reduced when she conveys thoughts of harming herself or others.

Orr, in handing down her sentence, noted the woman “presents a great number of challenges…for the people who have to work with her.’’

She told the woman she needs to learn how to deal with her problems in a more positive way, stressing it is unacceptable to hit or bite people.

“That is not how we deal with problems,’’ she said.

The judge also ordered the woman to perform one act of kindness over the next five weeks and to write a letter of apology to each of the two people she assaulted.

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