Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

July 11, 2014 17:49 ET

Coming into Force of the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

Federal government actions leading to better protection of Canadians and their communities

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 11, 2014) - Justice Canada

Bill C-14, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, came into force across Canada today. This new legislation strengthens the Criminal Code's decision-making process relating to accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) on account of mental disorder to make public safety the primary consideration, enhance victim safety, and provide victims with a stronger voice in the process. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay highlighted its significance today.

Quick Facts

  • Bill C-14 ensures that public safety comes first when courts make decisions with respect to any accused person found NCR or unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder.
  • In addition, for even greater public safety, those NCR accused persons who are found by a court to pose a higher risk of committing future acts of violence, the legislation creates a new high-risk designation process. Upon being designated by a court as high-risk, an NCR accused would be held in custody in a hospital and could not be released by a review board until the high-risk designation was revoked by a court.
  • Other effects of being designated as a high-risk NCR accused include a possible extension by the review board of the period between reviews (up to three years), the denial of unescorted passes into the community, and the condition that escorted passes could only be granted for medical reasons and subject to sufficient safeguards to protect public safety.
  • The legislation also enhances the safety of victims by ensuring that they are specifically considered when decisions are being made about mentally disordered accused persons; ensuring that they are notified when such an accused is discharged and where they intend to reside, if the victims so desire; and allowing for non-communication orders between the accused and the victim.
  • The reforms do not affect access to treatment for any mentally disordered accused person.
  • The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act also amends the National Defence Act to ensure consistency in the mental disorder regime in the military justice system. Those amendments will come into force at a future date to be fixed by Order in Council.

Quotes

"Our Government is committed to protecting all Canadians and keeping our communities and families safe. I am very pleased to see the coming into force of another piece of legislation, introduced by this Government, to help ensure greater safety in Canada. Since the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act was reintroduced late last year, our Government has worked quickly to put public safety first; protect Canadians from NCR accused designated as high-risk; and enhance the rights of victims by passing this legislation. Through the creation of a new high-risk designation process, this legislation ensures that NCR accused persons who meet the higher-risk threshold are no longer a threat to their victims or communities across our country."

Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Produits connexes

Fiche d'information : Loi sur la réforme de la non-responsabilité criminelle

Associated Links

Royal Assent for Bill protecting Canadians from high-risk accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible on account of mental disorder

Minister MacKay Holds Roundtable to Discuss the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

Government of Canada Reinstates Legislation Proposing a Safer Regime for Dealing with Accused Persons Found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder

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Backgrounder

Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

The Government of Canada is committed to standing up for victims of crime and making streets and communities safer for Canadians. The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act will ensure that public safety comes first in the decision-making process with respect to accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder (NCR). It would enhance the safety of victims and promote greater victim involvement in the Criminal Code mental disorder regime.

Brief Overview of the Criminal Code Mental Disorder Regime

The Criminal Code mental disorder regime applies to a very small percentage of accused persons. Under Canadian criminal law, if an accused person cannot understand the nature of the trial or its consequences, and cannot communicate with their lawyer on account of a mental disorder, the court will find that the person is "unfit to stand trial." Once an accused becomes fit to stand trial, they will then be tried for the offence with which they were initially charged.

If a person is found to have committed the act that constitutes an offence while lacking the capacity to appreciate what they did or know that it was wrong due to a mental disorder at the time, the court makes a special verdict of "Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder" (NCR). The person is neither convicted, nor acquitted.

An accused person found either unfit to stand trial or NCR is referred to a provincial or territorial review board, which decides on which type of order to make, which, depending on the circumstances, could be custody in a hospital, a conditional or absolute discharge.

Proposed Amendments to the Mental Disorder Regime

Public Safety is Paramount

The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act includes several changes to the mental disorder regime of the Criminal Code. It explicitly makes public safety the paramount consideration in the court and the review board decision-making process relating to accused persons found to be NCR or unfit to stand trial, consistent with decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, most recently R. v. Conway.

In addition, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act codifies the meaning of the phrase "significant threat to the safety of the public," which is used in the Criminal Code as the test to determine whether the review board can maintain jurisdiction and continue to supervise an accused person found to be NCR or unfit to stand trial. The Act states that, consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation, the phrase means "a risk of physical or psychological harm to members of the public - including any victim of or witness to the offence, or any person under the age of 18 years - resulting from conduct that is criminal in nature but not necessarily violent". The codification will ensure more consistency in the application of this test.

Creating a High-Risk Designation

The legislation amends the Criminal Code to create a process for the designation of NCR accused persons as "high-risk" where the accused person has been found NCR for a serious personal injury offence and there is a substantial likelihood of further violence that would endanger the public. A high-risk designation could also be made in cases in which the acts were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave harm to the public. Those designated as high-risk NCR accused persons cannot be granted a conditional or absolute discharge, and the designation can only be revoked by a court following a recommendation of the review board. This designation will apply only to those found NCR and not to persons found unfit to stand trial.

The legislation makes it clear that a high-risk NCR accused person will not be allowed to go into the community unescorted and that escorted passes would only be allowed for medical reasons or treatment purposes and only if a structured plan is in place to address any undue risk to public safety. Also, the review board may decide to extend the review period to up to three years for those designated high-risk, instead of annually. The high-risk NCR designation would not affect access to treatment by the accused.

Enhancing Victims' Involvement

The legislation will enhance the safety of victims and provide them with opportunities for greater involvement in the Criminal Code mental disorder regime by:

  • ensuring they are notified, upon request, when the accused is discharged and providing them with information regarding the accused's intended place of residence;
  • allowing for non-communications orders between the accused and the victim; and
  • ensuring that their safety is considered when decisions are being made about the accused person.

The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act aims to ensure consistent interpretation and application of the law across the country. The reforms do not change the existing Criminal Code eligibility criteria for the exemption from criminal responsibility on account of mental disorder. The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act also amends the National Defence Act to ensure consistency in the mental disorder regime in the military justice system. Those amendments will come into force at a future date to be fixed by Order in Council.

Contact Information

  • Mary Ann Dewey-Plante
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-943-8506

    Media Relations Office
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207