The Case of Dr. Guy Turcotte: the Sequel

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Have you heard of the case of Guy Turcotte? He is the doctor found not guilty of killing his two children because of a mental disorder.

The Review Board for Mental Disorders is now evaluating his condition. What is this Board and what powers does it have?

The Process

The Review Board for Mental Disorders evaluates the condition of people in two situations:

  • people found unfit to go through a criminal trial
  • people found not criminally responsible for their actions after a trial

Three people sit as judges on the board, including a psychiatrist and a lawyer.

They examine the condition of the person by looking at the most recent psychiatric reports. They can also require other people give them information or documents they need to make a decision.

Decisions in Cases Like Guy Turcotte’s

The Board has several options when making decisions about people found not criminally responsible:

  • if the person is no longer a danger to society, it can let the person go free permanently
  • let the person go free, but under some conditions
  • keep the person in a psychiatric hospital

After considering the person’s condition, needs and level of danger to society, the Board must make the decision that places the fewest limits on that person’s freedom.

For example, the Board cannot send the person to a maximum-security prison if a medium-security psychiatric hospital is more suitable.

Also, the Board cannot force the person to follow a treatment, unless the person agrees to this. But the Board can decide not to release the person unless he or she follows this treatment.

After the Board Makes a Decision

The Board must review its decision at least once a year, unless the person has been permanently released. In some cases, this period can be extended to 24 months.

The person the Board makes a decision about, or the government lawyers who bring criminal cases to court, can ask the Court of Appeal of Quebec to change a decision of the Board.