A quasi-judicial review panel has granted man with mental illness unsupervised day passes, seven months after he stabbed a family member to death.
John Jason Salah, suffering from a schizophrenic delusion, thought he was Jesus when he took a knife last June and stabbed his 77-year-old aunt Norma Jean Salah to death. A Halifax court found him not criminally responsible in November.
This week the Nova Scotia Criminal Code Review Board found Salah well enough to be released on day passes.
The release of patients from the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital came under intense scrutiny following the death of Raymond Taaval, a gay rights activist allegedly beaten to death by a man on a one-hour pass.
Andre Noel Denny failed to return to the hospital after being granted a one-hour leave in April — an incident that led government officials to review release protocols for forensic psychiatric patients.
That review, released in September, listed better tracking and more frequent assessments of forensic psychiatric patients among its 18 recommendations.
The Capital District Health Authority has hired a part-time worker to go out and check to see if patients on leave are where they say they're going to be.
But since the review and recommendations of day passes were made in September, CBC News has learned that 11 patients have gone absent without leave for as long as 24 hours from the forensic hospital.
Day pass conditions set by forensic hospital
John Scott, the Crown attorney in Salah's case, said he could be free to leave anytime.
"It could be early as tomorrow or today," said Scott. "Realistically it could be days or months down the road too."
Scott said it's up to the forensic hospital to set the conditions of Salah's day passes in order to minimize the risk to the public.
"What the public may say is '[You're] letting him out way too soon,' or 'You shouldn't do this.' The hospital would probably look upon it as, 'If he's mentally stable, we have him on his meds, we're looking at the risk to the public,'" said Scott.
"You can never say there's zero risk but it would be on the low end from what they would start him at."
Scott told CBC News "there's nothing in the report to suggest there are any blips or any major issues with Mr. Salah," in terms of risk to the public.