In April 2008, the town of Merritt, B.C. was cast under a dark shadow when Allan Schoenborn murdered his 3 young children inside their family home while in the midst of a psychotic break.
After a 3 month Jury Trial in Kamloops, B.C., Schoenborn was found to be Not Criminally Responsible (“NCR”) for the 3 murders. (Link to original story) Since the time of his arrest he has remained at a Forensic Psychiatric facility in Coquitlam, B.C, and is monitored by the Forensic Psychiatrics Services Commission (more information on their role in this process clickhere)
Just recently, however, he appeared in front of the B.C. Review Board (link for more info) and was granted escorted access into the community. Mr. Schoenborn must abide by a strict set of conditions when he is in the community, including abstaining from the use of drugs and alcohol, no access to any sort of weapon, no contact with a number of different individuals, consent to urine analysis testing whenever it is requested of him, and he must keep the peace and be on good behavior.
The decision of the B.C. Review Board is not one that was met without criticism – in fact, the overall response is a negative one. Citizens are concerned for the safety of the general public, and with Mr. Schoenborn’s well documented criminal history, it is difficult to sway the public’s collective opinion. The Mayor of Coquitlam, Greg Moore, has stated that he will urge council to have the Board re-evaluate their decision.
The problem that we are faced with here is one that turns its ugly head every time a prolific or well-known offender is afforded the privilege of re-joining society. While concerns will inevitably be raised, people must understand that a qualified, experienced and well-advised B.C. Supreme Court Judge made the determination that the Accused was NCR due to a mental disorder. The subsequent developments in his case, for example the most recent decision to allow him escorted visits into the community, come in response to the progress Schoenborn has made over the past several years.
It is important to note that determinations of NCR for homicide charges are not commonplace within the Canadian Judicial System. In fact, over the span of 2005 – 2012, there were only 13 homicide cases before the Courts where a Judge determined that the Accused was Not Criminally Responsible. This statistic serves to prove that these decisions are not made in haste. They are reserved for cases where an Accused person, by way of mental disease or disorder, does not possess the culpability or rationale to be held accountable for their actions. Once under the care of qualified doctors and mental health professionals, and aided by the appropriate medications, it would seem only natural that the offender would begin to improve. That is, after all, the point of having a person committed to a Psychiatric Facility – by stripping them of their rights and freedoms, we undertake the responsibility of developing a collaborative plan to treat their illness.
No one is handing Mr. Schoenborn a get-out-of-jail-free card. He is maneuvering his way through a system that is intended to identify, diagnose, educate, treat, and heal. A system that is designed to protect us – from each other, and when necessary, from ourselves.