NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – A man who underwent a psychotic break and murdered his three children as they lay asleep in their beds does not pose enough of a threat to the public to be labelled high risk, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge has found.
Justice Martha Devlin said Thursday that while Allan Schoenborn continues to struggle with serious anger management issues, the deaths of his children relate to his mental health problems, which have lessened since he started treatment while in custody following his conviction in 2010.
“Without his mental disorder, Mr. Schoenborn would not have committed these abhorrent acts,” Devlin said.
“Because his mental disorder is in remission, there is no basis on which to conclude that Mr. Schoenborn is highly likely to cause grave physical and psychological harm.”
Devlin buttressed her ruling with references to Schoenborn’s current mental condition and the opinions of psychiatric experts, all of which she said point to the low likelihood of a relapse.
A designation of high-risk accused would have barred Schoenborn from escorted outings into the community and would have extended the time between his review board hearings from one to three years.
Schoenborn killed his 10-year-old daughter Kaitlynne and sons, Max and Cordon, aged eight and five, in the family’s home in Merritt in April 2008. He was eventually found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
The murder trial heard Schoenborn was experiencing psychosis at the time of the killings and believed he was saving his children from sexual and physical abuse, though no evidence suggested this was the case.
Stacy Galt, a cousin of Schoenborn’s ex-wife, buried her face in her hands and sobbed as Devlin read her judgment.
Speaking outside court, Galt questioned the decision.
“If Allan won’t be high-risk designation then who will qualify for high-risk designation?” she said, her hands and voice shaking as she cried.
“Our fear is real. What he did was heinous. And he shouldn’t be able to walk the streets. He should be in care for the rest of his life.”
Mike Clarke, Schoenborn’s former brother-in-law, read a statement written by his sister, Darcie Clarke.
In it, Schoenborn’s ex-wife described the judge’s decision as “shameful” and “disappointing,” and said the justice system had failed her and her family.
Schoenborn’s lawyer, Rishi Gill, said the decision should not be considered a victory for his client.
Schoenborn is being properly managed in a psychiatric facility, his psychosis is under control and he doesn’t fit the definition for a high risk accused person, Gill said.
“The question that was decided today was strictly about, ‘Is Mr. Schoenborn the type of risk that needs the high-risk designation,’ ” he said.
“At no point has Mr. Schoenborn’s team either applied for release or has he been given release, and that’s not going to change. Until he shows a certain amount of improvement there is no danger for him being released.”
Schoenborn’s case gained notoriety after former prime minister Stephen Harper singled him out when he introduced a law creating the high-risk designation for mentally ill offenders in 2013. The designation has yet to be successfully applied.
Alisia Adams, a spokeswoman for B.C. Prosecution Service, says the Crown will need some time before deciding whether to file an appeal.
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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version contained an incorrect spelling for Justice Martha Devlin.