Ten months after he was declared not criminally responsible (NCR) for the worst mass killing in Calgary’s history, Matthew de Grood will start seeking freedoms.
“I fail to see any evidence that he poses a significant risk,” de Grood’s defence lawyer Allan Fay told Global News. “I think we’ve reached the point where he should receive more privileges so he can continue to demonstrate he’s not a risk.”
Describing him as a model patient, Fay said he would like to see a gradual reintegration into society.
“The only way we’re going to know if he’s a risk is if he’s put in situations where there are stressors placed on him. But if we can do that in a supervised way initially and see how he reacts, then go from there,” Fay said.
De Grood was found to be mentally ill when he stabbed five young people at a house party April 15, 2014.
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Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27 all died.
The victims’ families are opposed to any freedoms.
“He’s extremely violent when un-medicated,” Kaiti’s father Gregg Perras said.
“So can we ever say if he’s unconditionally released that he will take his medicine? Can you take that risk?”
“You couple his mental illness with his knowledge and ability to kill quickly and effectively…how can there be any public safety?” Zackariah’s mother Ronda-Lee Rathwell said. “If he has a psychotic break, if he doesn’t take his medication we know what he does –he kills everyone around him.”
Every year, de Grood’s status is reviewed by an Alberta provincial court judge, two psychiatrists and community members.
The board has three options: they can order de Grood to continue treatment in a secure facility, grant him a conditional discharge or give him an absolute discharge.
In Canada, the system deals with NCR cases as medical issues, not criminal ones.
“It’s not up to the patient to prove he isn’t a risk, rather, it’s up to the board to find evidence that he is a risk,” forensic psychologist Dr. Patrick Baillie explained. “And if they don’t find any risk, then they’re compelled to provide an absolute discharge.”
A high-risk NCR designation could make freedom more difficult and mean fewer hearings. But the Crown would have to seek that status and to date, that hasn’t happened–leaving full control in the hands of the Alberta Review Board.
“I don’t see any evidence that would support the high-risk designation,” Fay said.
“And let’s be clear: to get the high-risk designation, it has to be more than people wanting it—there has to be evidence to support it.”
De Grood remains in a secure psychiatric facility.
“He’s absolutely stricken by the fact of what he’s done,” Fay said. “And I’m satisfied he wishes to do everything he possibly can to make sure that nothing like this happens again. He’s completely committed to that.”
But for the families of the five young victims, de Grood’s word isn’t enough.
“He killed five people in under two minutes,” Rathwell said. “I don’t know how any doctor can play God like that and say we know for a fact that he will never do this again.”
Alberta Justice told Global News it needs more time to respond to a request for its position on the high-risk designation in this case.