British Columbia

'Dangling the carrot' of freedom for Allan Schoenborn hinders psychotic treatment: Crown

Presenting outings as possibility for Allan Schoenborn gives 'false hope,' review board told

Presenting outings as possibility for Allan Schoenborn gives 'false hope,' review board told

Allan Schoenborn was found not criminally responsible of killing his three children in Merritt, B.C. nine years ago. (CBC)

Giving a British Columbia man who killed his three children during a psychotic break the false hope of escorted outings from a psychiatric facility will interfere with his recovery from serious mental illness, a review board has heard.

The Crown advised a B.C. Review Board Hearing on Friday to withdraw the discretionary power it gave the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam two years ago to allow Allan Schoenborn, 49, accompanied access into the community.

"Holding out the possibility of (outings), dangling the carrot by the treatment team did not get Mr. Schoenborn engaged in treatment,'' said Crown counsel Wendy Dawson.

"Expediency never trumps public safety,'' she added.

A psychiatrist says Schoenborn still struggles with anger management, although he's developed better insight into what makes him angry.

But defence lawyer Dante Abbey said the possibility of escorted outings is an important tool to motivate Schoenborn in his recovery and withdrawing it would do further harm.

"He is making a genuine effort," Abbey said. "He is digging down and looking for answers.''

3 children killed

Schoenborn stabbed his 10-year-old daughter Kaitlynne and smothered his sons Max and Cordon, who were eight and five, in their home in Merritt in April 2008.

A judge later ruled the man was not criminally responsible for the deaths because he was experiencing psychosis at the time and believed he was saving them from a life of physical and sexual abuse.

Final arguments wrapped up Friday in Schoenborn's annual review board hearing over the issue of granting him some freedoms.

A decision is not expected before Nov. 17.

Schoenborn stabbed his daughter Kaitlynne, 10, and smothered his sons Max and Cordon, eight and five, in their home in Merritt in April 2008. (RCMP)

Psychiatrist Dr. Marcel Hediger, a member of Schoenborn's treatment team, told the hearing his client still struggles with anger management but the outbursts have become less frequent and intense over the past six months.

Schoenborn has difficulty putting anger-control techniques into practice but he has developed better insight into what causes him to react, Hediger said.

He said it's unlikely he would recommend Schoenborn for escorted outings into the community within the next year.

'This is not just rehabilitation'

Schoenborn has never been granted outings, though the hospital where he lives has had the power to do so since 2015.

He sat slumped in a chair during parts of the hearing, wearing a blue sweater, torn jeans and slippers.

A 2015 review board decision says Schoenborn was diagnosed as having a delusional disorder and a substance abuse disorder, but his symptoms had been in remission for many years.

Psychologist Stephen Hart, an expert witness for the Crown, told the hearing that he doubted Schoenborn would be ready for escorted outings within the next three years, if ever.

"This is not just rehabilitation. This is habilitation,'' he said, adding Schoenborn will have to function at a high level for the first time. "Many people don't win that battle.''

The home in which Schoenborn killed his three children was demolished in 2015. (Merritt City Council)

Board chairman Barry Long asked Hart why he should prefer his advice over that of Hediger, who has regular contact with Schoenborn as the member of his treatment team.

"I would characterize my evidence as very similar to Dr. Hediger's,'' Hart replied.

"Bullshit,'' Schoenborn interrupted, prompting a member of his legal team put a hand on his arm and whisper something into his ear.

The review board can order someone to remain in custody or grant them either a conditional or absolute discharge. Custody orders can be tailored to individual cases.

Schoenborn consented to forego a hearing in 2016 while the B.C. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether he should be designated a high-risk accused.

A judge rejected the Crown's application in August, ruling Schoenborn didn't fit the criteria for the high-risk label, and while the killings were brutal, they were committed because of his delusional state.