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Allan Schoenborn case returns to B.C. Review Board for annual hearing


COQUITLAM, B.C. — The British Columbia Review Board has reserved its decision on whether the director of a psychiatric hospital should have the discretion to allow limited, unescorted community outings for a man who was found not criminally responsible in the killings of his three children.

A lawyer for Allan Schoenborn told the board on Thursday that the director would have the discretion to grant community access based on any future progress made by his client in treatment at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.

Schoenborn has been held at the hospital since 2010 after being convicted of killing his 10-year-old daughter and two sons, aged eight and five, in April 2008.

A Crown attorney acknowledged that Schoenborn's condition has "vastly improved" over the years, but said it's "premature" to consider the possibility of unescorted outings.

Michelle Booker asked the board to consider Schoenborn's ability to manage his anger, his history of non-compliance with authority, and whether he would be a flight risk.

She noted that Schoenborn was involved in three physical altercations with other patients at the hospital last year, while there had been no reported incidents over the course of the previous three years.

Schoenborn's lawyer, Rishi Gill, said the decision for the board is whether the hospital director may have the discretion to grant Schoenborn unescorted outings if he makes the requisite progress, not whether the outings be considered at this time.

In 2015, the review board gave the psychiatric hospital the discretion to grant Schoenborn staff-supported community outings. He has participated in around 20 outings, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Lacroix told the three-member review board panel.

Schoenborn told the panel the escorted absences were "a real step forward" and helped him build trust with staff members.

Lacroix said Schoenborn's progress in treatment has been "very positive" and the outings were "unremarkable."

However, Lacroix said there have been three behavioural incidents of note since the last review board hearing was held in January 2019, all of which involved provocation by other patients. The psychiatrist told panel that Schoenborn has often shown restraint while being persistently taunted by other patients who are familiar with his case.

Lacroix said he interprets those incidents within the context of the institution, where Schoenborn often interacts with other patients experiencing symptoms of mental illness. He said reactionary behaviour is normative among the patients and he does not believe Schoenborn would react the same way outside the hospital.

Schoenborn's psychotic illness has been in remission for years, Lacroix added, noting there has been no evidence of his symptoms returning.

The psychiatrist reiterated he was not recommending that Schoenborn be granted unescorted outings, but said it's not an unrealistic possibility if Schoenborn's treatment progresses significantly.

Booker said Schoenborn's aggression towards other patients occurred in the absence of psychotic symptoms and intoxicants.

While questioning Schoenborn, Booker pointed out that he had declined to participate in a woodworking course because he feared he would use a nail gun to harm himself.

Schoenborn said his suicidal thoughts have not disappeared entirely, but he is "keeping them down."

Gill accused the Crown attorney of "cherry picking" Schoenborn's worst moments from evidence that shows his client is "on the proper path."

Schoenborn has participated in a drug and alcohol treatment program and Lacroix said he has not consumed any contraband substances.

"He's avoided all of that on his own," said Lacroix, who added he would like to see Schoenborn complete the drug and alcohol treatment program before a request for unescorted community access might be considered.

Initially, the outings would not be for leisure, but for psychosocial programs, said Lacroix, who added he would want to see Schoenborn continue with larger supervised outings and increased interaction with the public.

Risk assessments for specific destinations in the community would also be required before the hospital's director would consider unescorted outings, Lacroix said.

Thursday's hearing was the first since the death of Darcie Clarke, Schoenborn's ex-wife and the mother of their three slain children.

A lawyer for the Crown read a victim impact statement written by Clarke's brother, Mike Clarke, who said he is "haunted daily" by the ordeal. He said his sister died last year of "stress-induced cardiomyopathy" and equated the condition to dying of a broken heart.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2020.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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