Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Vincent Li's doctors recommend supervised outings-- I completely agree

The treatment team for Greyhound Bus killer Vincent Li is recommending he start receiving supervised passes that let him out of his locked ward at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
Li appeared Monday afternoon at his annual Review Board hearing, where board members must decide what type of care and supervision he should receive for the next 12 months.

Li was found not criminally responsible last year for the 2008 killing and beheading of 22-year-old Tim McLean on board a Greyhound Bus near Portage la Prairie. He admitted responsibility for the unprovoked attack but was found by a judge to be suffering from hallucinations and untreated schizophrenia at the time which left him unable to appreciate or control his actions.
Li's treating psychiatrist told the Review Board Monday he has made significant progress since his last hearing a year ago.

Dr. Steven Kraemer says he believes Li is ready to be allowed out of his locked, high-risk ward and on to the grounds at Selkirk for up to 30 minutes a day. He suggested Li be accompanied by two security guards at all times, which is an increase of the typical one-on-one supervision other residents receive. He said Li's opportunities for fresh air, sunshine and recreation could gradually go up to two hours each day.
The grounds are not surrounded by any fence or barrier and extra staff would likely have to be hired to accommodate the resources needed for Li, the board was told.
"We're taking a very cautious approach. We have no way of knowing how he will respond," said Kraemer.
He said Li has responded well to medication, listens well to staff and has attended all required programming and treatment. Li has developed a better understanding about the impact of his crime and only "occasionally" suffers from the hallucinations that once haunted him.
Crown attorney Corrine Deegan told the Review Board it's far too early to be giving Li any privileges.
"These supervised ground permits are not appropriate," she argued. "The fact they are request that (extra) level of security is evidence of concern."
McLean's family and friends filled the Winnipeg courtroom and are opposed to giving Li any outdoor time. They say the risk of something going wrong is too high.
"I was shocked the whole facility isn't surrounded by a fence," said McLean's mother, Carol de Delley. "I don't think he should have any freedom. Treat him humanely, but in a locked facility for the rest of his life."
The Review Board is expected to give a written decision later this week.

Outside time requested for Vincent Li
Doctors treating the man who stabbed and beheaded a passenger aboard a Greyhound bus are asking that he be allowed short periods of supervised outdoor time on the grounds of the Manitoba mental-health facility where he's being held.
Vince Li, 41, returned to a Winnipeg courtroom on Monday for a mandatory annual review of his detention at a mental-health facility in Selkirk, north of Winnipeg.
The Criminal Code Review Board conducts the annual review of his detention and care.
At the hearing, Li's doctors asked the board to consider allowing Li 15-minute escorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. He's currently being held in a secure part of the facility. The Crown and victim Tim McLean's family are opposed to the move.
In early 2009, Li was found not criminally responsible for killing McLean, 22, aboard a Greyhound bus bound for Winnipeg in July 2008.
Li had pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Psychiatric evidence at his trial suggested he is schizophrenic and suffered a major psychotic episode when he fatally stabbed McLean, ate some of the body parts, and cut off McLean's head.
'I think he should be held for the rest of his life.'—Carol DeDelley
Rather than being held in prison, Li is being kept in the secure psychiatric facility. The review board is responsible for assessing whether Li should remain institutionalized or be given a conditional release, which is unlikely.
Dressed in a dark suit and sneakers, Li was seated in the courtroom in such a way that he did not face the gallery, where a number of members of McLean's family were sitting.
McLean's mother, Carol DeDelley, said after the hearing that her son's killer should never be allowed out of the secure part of the facility.
"I think he should be held for the rest of his life," DeDelley said.
"I struggle to get through a day without crying over the details of my son's death," DeDelley wrote in a victim impact statement. "I don't want to see the visions in my mind, but they are still there. I don't want to be here speaking to the review board. I feel I have to be."
Bruce Martin, the man who drove the bus on the night of the attack, and who only recently returned to regular duties, told the board his only relief is knowing Li is "under lock and key."
"I have some comfort knowing that our citizens, and their children and grandchildren do not have to fear [Li]," Martin wrote in a statement read by his wife.
Li sat slumped over as his doctor answered questions about his treatment.
The review board members heard that Li continues to be medicated with anti-psychotic drugs. He is also now being treated with antidepressants.
Li's risk of suicide has been downgraded to low, the members heard, and Dr. Steven Kremer, Li's psychiatrist, suggested this might have something to do with him taking the antidepressant medication.

Behaviour unpredictable: doctor

Questions were asked about the risk Li poses to the general public.
The board heard that Li has been participating in programming and has not refused treatment that's been offered to him.
Kremer did not suggest that these positive factors support Li's release from custody.
"We can not predict an individual's future behaviour with 100 per cent certainty," he said.
Li still keeps largely to himself, but has had regular contact with his wife, Ana, over the past year, the board heard.
It's not the first time Li has spent time in a mental-health facility.
In 2005, he went to Ontario from Winnipeg in search of employment, according to review board documents.
The documents said he was picked up by police walking on the highway on his way back to Winnipeg and was admitted to William Osler Health Centre in Etobicoke.
It is not known when the review board will issue its decision on whether Li will stay in custody, but members indicated it could be within a few days.

Call for Li pass opposed -- Ground passes suggested for bus beheader
Justice officials are opposing a recommendation that Greyhound killer Vincent Li be allowed daily ground passes at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
“This is a very difficult case for all involved,” said Crown attorney Corrine Deegan at Li’s annual Criminal Code review board hearing Monday. “A cautious approach must be taken.”
Deegan said ground passes are “not appropriate, and premature.”
Li, 41, has been lodged at the mental health centre since March 2009 when he was found not criminally responsible for the stabbing death and dismemberment of 22-year-old Greyhound bus passenger Tim McLean.
Dr. Steven Kremer, Li’s treating psychiatrist, is recommending that Li be allowed daily supervised ground passes in the company of two male guards, starting at 15 minutes two times a day, increasing to a maximum of one hour two times a day. The grounds are not enclosed.
Kremer said Li has responded well to treatment but continues to suffer low intensity hallucinations. Kremer said Li is a low risk to kill again and a low suicide risk.
“His demeanour on the ward, he doesn’t argue with staff ... he is responsive to their requests,” he said.
Kremer said the recommendation that Li be supervised by two guards is a precaution “on the off chance” he tries to escape.
“We cannot predict an individual’s future behaviour 100%,” he said. Deegan said any risk is too much.
“The fact they are suggesting that level of security is evidence they have a concern,” she said.
The review board is expected to announce its decision within the next few days.
McLean’s mother said she remains forever scarred by her son’s death, is undergoing regular therapy and can no longer work.
“I have never been a prejudiced person but now I am wary of all people, especially people of Asian descent,” Carol deDelley told the review board in a victim impact statement.
Outside court, deDelley renewed her call that Li be sentenced to life in a locked facility. “I don’t think that Mr. Li should have any freedoms,” she said.

This headline is completely biased and misleading in the media stories! It's purpose was to provoke the ignorant responses and public outrage that it has, due to its wording of "outings." This makes it seem as if Li will be allowed into the community, when really, he would only be allowed in the hospital courtyard. It was intentionally written this way. It is 30 minutes of supervised time outside for sunlight, fresh air and recreation. I don't think that will harm anybody or pose a risk to anybody. 

I agree with Li being able to receive supervised outings. He needs to be gradually exposed to the outside world to facilitate his reintegration. It would be more dangerous for us to simply release him completely with no supervision or conditions. If he is taking his medications and is attending treatment and seeing a psychiatrist, his mental illness is likely more under control. He killed Tim McLean because he was suffering from delusions and hallucinations. If he is being treated, he is not in that same mental state which is a positive thing. It was the right decision for him to be held not criminally responsible because actions which are not voluntary and unconscious committed by someone who is suffering from a serious mental disorder and who is not rational, should not be blameworthy. Prison would have only made his condition worse and more likely to re-offend. People with mental illnesses need help, not prison. 

I completely agree with supervised outings. If his mental illness is under control and he is receiving treatment, I see no problems here. Would you people who disagree rather have him released completely one day with no supervision or conditions or have him gradually exposed and reintegrated to the world outside? Personally, I think successful reintegration and rehabilitation should be the goal here. I advocate for more prisoners' rights and therefore, completely agree with giving Mr. Li more rights. Denying him the right to sunlight, recreation and fresh air, would be inhumane in my opinion, especially since he has made great progress so far. 

He would only be spending 30 minutes per day, accompanied by 2 security guards. Under these conditions, he will hardly pose a threat to anybody. Convicted criminals who are deemed responsible for their crimes are allowed exposure to sunshine and exercise for more than 30 minutes and Mr. Li was found not criminally responsible for his crimes, due to the fact that he suffered from shizophrenia and was unaware of the nature of his actions at the time. He has every right to be allowed sunlight and exercise. Refusing this man 30 minutes of sunlight per day is hardly humane. These passes should be done in a sensible, safe and cautious manner, but I believe in human rights for all individuals regardless of the crime they committed, and especially for someone who suffers from mental illness. This was not criminally responsible for McLean's death because of his illness. He could not appreciate the nature of his actions and was not aware of what he was doing due to delusions and hallucinations. He was incapable of understanding what he was doing at the time. 

I believe that what's fueling this intense public anger about these passes, is the manner in which the body was defiled. I agree, it was horrible, but it doesn't make Li any more responsible for his actions. He is probably less of a danger to society in the future than those in the community with undiagnosed schizophrenia whose illnesses have yet to reach the severity of Li's at the time of the murder. 

Nobody, even those convicted of brutal murders, should be locked in a room 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is inhumane treatment. Li was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions, and should not be treated worse than someone serving time in a federal prison! That is torture and it should not have its place in a so-called civilized society such as Canada. This man needs rehabilitation and treatment. We need to treat prisoners and those with mental illnesses, with dignity, respect and trust. We also have an obligation to treat those humanely.

After reading the comments on the Winnipeg Free Press's and CBC Manitoba's websites, I am shocked at the public's reaction. People are so ignorant and they clearly do not understand mental illnesses. It is not dangerous for Li to be allowed supervised outings in the COURTYARD and the hospital! He isn't being released into the community, so I don't understand what the public outrage is about. He will still remain detained in the facility until doctors feel that he no longer poses a risk to society. This man suffers from a severe mental illness and commentators simply don't understand how debilitating that can be to a person. We need to have compassion and sympathy for those with mental illnesses, regardless of if they committed a crime or not. The public needs to educate themselves about mental illnesses and restrain their impulse for revenge. I find it disturbing that people actually spoke favourably about the Chinese justice system and about the execution of the mentally ill, which is completely cruel and barbaric. 

Yes he committed a horrible act, but he was not aware of his actions, did not understand the nature of his actions and did not know it was wrong due to his mental illness. 

We are supposed to be civilized and advanced in our societal values and culture and morals, yet the majority of those who have commented show no understanding of mental illness and instead push for vigilante style justice and execution of the mentally ill. Yes, this man's actions were horrible and tragic but he was acting out of his untreated mental illness, which can be successfully controlled in most people. We should not be promoting hatred and vigilante justice of the mentally ill. That is disturbing to me. These comments are cold-hearted. Vincent Li is a human being and we need to attempt to rehabilitate those with mental illnesses. Execution is not how a civilized society treats the mentally ill. I have compassion for both the McLean family and Vincent Li. Society is better served by having this mentally ill individual in a treatment facility as opposed to having him in prison where his condition would worsen without adequate treatment. The McLean family needs to spend more time and energy supporting mental health causes and trying to understand it as opposed to hating this man. 

The lack of compassion for the mentally ill shown by many people is shocking to me. Saying that he should be executed or deported because he has a disorder is judgmental and demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for the mentally ill in our society. He belongs in a mental health facility and needs treatment. People are so ignorant about mental illness. Mr. Li deserves the same sympathy of anyone with a mental illness over which they have no control. What happened to Tim McClean was horrible, and Vince Li should probably never be released from the secure facility where he is being treated, unless there can be absolute assurance that he will not engage in similar actions. I wish people would take the time and opportunity to understand mental illnesses and the impact it has on individual lives. This man should not be locked up forever and should be gradually reintegrated into society eventually, but right now, he needs rehabilitation and help. Every human life is of value and nobody, including Li, deserves to die. Vengeance is completely different from justice and should not be tolerated. Denying rights and mistreating individuals with disorders will not make society safer in the long term. The ignorance and prejudice of the mentally ill by some readers, is just disgusting.  

We should not be further depriving and punishing someone who was found to be not criminally responsible for their actions. The public's understanding of severe, persistent mental disorders is poor. Those who advocate for incarceration or execution or deportation of this man, obviously have no experience with schizophrenia other than what they know from movies, TV and the media. Most people with schizophrenia are a larger risk to themselves than they are others. Most live in the community and do well as long as they have access to proper treatment and support. It's easy for the narrow minded to condemn Vincent Li but how are you to know that he has ever been given the treatment that he required or the support that he needed? It's easy to say that he didnt take responsibility for his own health but this illness robs people of the insight they need to comply with treatment. What this man did was gruesome and horrific. But these types of events by people with mental illnesses are rare and most people with this disease can control it. The only thing more disturbing than what this man did while he was severely ill, are the so called sane people who want to put him to death or lock him up in prison for the rest of his life because of an act he committed while under the influence of a terrible and debilitating disease. Shame on you all. Vincent Li was not responsible for his actions therefore, he should not be blamed or punished harsher than criminals in prison who are responsible for their actions. He should not be punished for a crime he never intended to commit. He is not a criminal and should not be treated as one. 

What Li did, was not his fault. The public's lack of understanding regarding mental illness is staggering. Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. He did not intend to commit that gruesome act and was not rational at the time. One cannot be guilty of a crime if they are in a mental state that prohibits reason and/or they are unable to comprehend the consequences of their actions. He should be put into the care of people with the ability to treat his mental condition. Mental illness is not a technicality. I do feel for the victims, he just happens to be one of them. Mental illness is not something any person with the ability to reason would wish upon themself. Li deserves to have the basic human rights of sunshine that even convicted criminals in prison receive. Li is not a criminal and should not be treated as one. Keeping him confined forever will not better his mental state, it can only worsen his illness. We are supposed to be humane and treat people with dignity and respect. What Li did was horrific, but it was done with a conscious mind but we should NOT punish those with mental illnesses and deprive them of basic rights!!    

I liked these comments on the Winnipeg Free Press:
He should absolutely be allowed to have supervised passes on the grounds, which should NOT be fenced in, since the Selkirk Mental Health Centre is a hospital, not a prison. Having been found not criminally responsible, as he should have been under the law, he is entitled to the same course of treatment and rehabilitation as any patient. Like it or not, he is NOT a criminal, and therefore cannot be treated as such.

Schizophrenia can be CONTROLLED with medication. If the disease is controlled, then Li will be able to control himself. It's wrong to conclude that because he still has hallucinations that he always will. Give the man time to heal and adjust. Mental illness doesn't heal in a straight trajectory. There are peaks and valleys on the road to recovery.

Li was never ON meds before the murder so you can't say he's violent when he's off them. Rehabilitation implies that he did something wrong and should have known better. The man who Vince Li is deep inside was not the person who took Tim McLean's life. That was a disease called schizophrenia. Vince Li wasn't present when that happened...not mentally.

I'm sure this is an important question. But I'm a bit confused as to why they are making such a fuss about a guy walking outside for 15 minutes when they should be investigating how a person who was previously under the care of our mental health system could be released to commit such a horrific act in the first place. 

Mr.Li is ill, as is so many other untreated or undiagnosed schizophrenics. There are more out there than you think, and any of them can suffer an episode and there is no way to predict how severe it will be. These people are not animals, and to categorize them as such is uneducated. Do I think he should be set free, absolutely not, and despite what some posters are saying, neither do the doctors. He is not being set free. He is allowed to go outside for a half an hour under strict supervision, far from "set free" if you ask me. Everyone desserves that freedom, even criminally RESPONSIBLE killers. We live in Canada where basic human rights need to be upheld. Lets not try and act like 30 mins outside equals complete freedom.

"The level of discourse here is quite upsetting."

I'll say. It almost brings tears to my eyes. I had hoped people were beginning to understand the nature of mental illness and that the stigma was falling away. If these comments are any indication of the general population's feelings, we're still in the dark ages.

God forbid I ever have to appear before a "jury of my peers" if this uninformed hysteria is the norm.

Deprive a sane person of daylight for long enough and you are bound to get some unpleasant results (having lived above the tree line I can attest to that). If Li suffers and goes even further off the deep end because of a vitamin D deficiency or for any other reason it is the people around him that we should be concerned about. The less healthy he is the more likely he is to harm a doctor, nurse, security guard, hospital patient or family member.

Let's not confuse common sense with liberal pandering. Whether or not to allow this man to see daylight under supervision in a secured area for a limited amount of time is about lowering the risk of danger he poses to himself and also (or maybe even especially) to others. It is not about the severity of punishment he deserves.


  1. I will state at the outset that I am the admin on Timslaw.ca ... So I would have a propensity to argue in favor of Li being confined. I am unlikely to sway your stated opinion but would comment on the one sentence for which there is agreement...

    "they should be investigating how a person who was previously under the care of our mental health system could be released to commit such a horrific act in the first place"

    For many people there is an inherent distrust in the ability of of these "professionals" to adequately determine the "fitness" of these individuals to live amongst the general public.

    The prosecution at the original "trial" was an inept show where everyone was in agreement and slapping themselves on the back for a job well done... a 2nd degree murder charge when the perpetrator acquires a weapon prior to boarding the bus?.. or the newspaper article he was allegedly reading in the days prior to the crime... allegedly because there never was a venting of the facts..

    So the question of his first release may raise another question... did the professionals examine Li and find no condition requiring treatment? Again with no evidence presented, we are left to ponder.

    Another "expert" (Yarin) last year declared that under his care Li was responding well to treatment...

    And now Kremer has found that some sunlight and exercise may be just what the doctor ordered.

    Excuse my skepticism but doctors with egotistical narcissistic personalities rushing to declare that they have "cured" person who have committed heinous crimes does not bolster my confidence.

    These professionals first need to actually perform their roles and duties with a sense of due diligence. That may actually inspire the general public to actually have some confidence in their ability to successfully diagnosis the subjects in their care.

  2. I have compassion and sympathy for Tim McLean's family and friends and agree that the act committed by Vincent Li was horrific and tragic. But I also have sympathy and compassion for those with mental disorders, such as Li. He was mentally unstable at the time of the act and therefore, cannot and should not be held criminally responsible. If he is progressing well and cooperating with treatment, I do not see any reason to deny him the basic human right of sunshine and fresh air, which he should have been receiving from the start of his treatment. Even prisoners receive more rights than Li, and that is wrong. Li is not a convicted criminal and should be receiving more rights.