A P.E.I. judge gave the provincial government a warning Thursday that it could find itself in contempt of court over issues getting a mental health assessment completed.
Chief Judge Nancy made the comments during the proceedings for Adam Gregory MacDonald in provincial court in Georgetown where she was told an assessment she ordered in September hadn’t been started.
Orr said the government has a responsibility to deal with the order and could find itself in contempt of court if the assessment isn’t carried out.
“It’s pretty simple,” she said.
Concerns about the province’s ability to have the order completed on time were raised before Orr even issued the assessment order on Sept. 26 at which time defence lawyer Hazen Brien said he struggled to determine who would complete it.
The assessment was ordered to determine if MacDonald is criminally responsible for three alleged offences, including driving while disqualified.
Orr initially ordered the assessment to be done within 30 days.
On Thursday, Crown attorney Nathan Beck told the court the assessment hadn’t been started.
Health P.E.I. was still in the process of retaining a forensic psychiatrist to complete it and sought a 30-day extension, Beck said.
Orr extended the order by 30 days, saying the assessment report needs to be filed with the court by Dec. 2.
MacDonald’s case was not the first in recent years in P.E.I. to see delays in getting a mental health assessment completed on time or at all.
In November 2018, provincial court judge John Douglas ordered an assessment for Shannon Dawn Rayner who was charged with three counts of infanticide.
Douglas extended that order when it wasn’t finished on time and later issued an entirely new order when the extension date was missed.
More recently, the Crown sought to have several witnesses, including Health P.E.I. CEO Denise Lewis Fleming, subpoenaed in a different case after problems getting a court-ordered assessment completed.
In that case, Douglas scheduled a hearing for Nov. 26-27 to deal with John Tyson Boudreault’s criminal responsibility and fitness to stand trial.
Boudreault is facing multiple charges after several incidents involving what was described in court as bizarre behaviour that included going into a stranger’s home to take a shower.
P.E.I. has a memorandum of understanding with the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Nova Scotia to perform court-ordered mental health assessments, but the facility has been declining to complete some of them because of capacity issues.
Health P.E.I. contracted two psychiatrists to perform assessments but confirmed in September one of them has since resigned.
The other lives in Ontario and will complete assessments through telehealth.
During Thursday’s proceedings, Orr said Health P.E.I. or whoever else is responsible for the assessments needs to understand the Criminal Code of Canada doesn’t allow for an extension of longer than 30 days.
They also need to understand the assessment orders are court orders, she said.
“It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a request.”
Orr adjourned the matter until Dec. 5.