British Columbia

Allan Schoenborn, who killed his 3 children, granted day passes

Allan Schoenborn, the B.C. man who killed his three children while suffering a mental illness, has been granted escorted outings into the community.

Children's mother says this is a decision she and her family have dreaded

Allan Schoenborn, the B.C. man who killed his three children while suffering a mental illness, has been granted escorted outings into the community.

A B.C. man who was found not criminally responsible after killing his three children has been granted escorted outings into the community.

Allan Schoenborn, 47, who lived in Merritt, has received the B.C. Review Board's approval for outings following his annual hearing as a patient at the province's psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam some seven years after he killed his children. 

The family of Darcie Clarke, the children's mother and Schoenborn's estranged wife, said she was disappointed with the decision. 

Schoenborn admitted to killing his children, Kaitlynne, 10, Max, 8, and Cordon, 5, in Merritt, B.C., in April 2008.

Schoenborn admitted killing 10-year-old Kaitlynne, eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon, who were found slain in the mobile home where they lived with their mother in April 2008, but pleaded not guilty in court.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Powers, who heard the three-month trial in Kamloops without a jury, found that the killings were deliberate and planned by Schoenborn, but said he was not sane at the time.

"I find on balance of probabilities he was suffering from a disease of the mind," Powers told the court at the end of the trial.

Powers rejected the Crown's assertion that Schoenborn killed his children as revenge against their mother.

"I find it unlikely [he] would have killed his children out of anger given the close and caring relationship he had with his children," he said .

Outrage over decision

Clarke was not happy with the board's decision.

"This is the decision my family and I had been dreading: Allan Schoenborn, the man who murdered my three children — Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon — will be re-entering our community even though the review board found him to be a high risk to public safety," Clarke said in a statement. 

The ruling gives the hospital director the discretion to direct trained staff members to escort Schoenborn on brief, highly managed excursions into a nearby city. The ruling permits outings only after extensive planning by the hospital. Its medical director can cancel a planned trip at any point.

Stacy Galt says Clarke, her cousin, was "just shattered" by the decision.

"She cannot live in Merritt anymore with her mother because it holds too many memories," Galt said. "She came here [in Port Coquitlam] to live with the rest of her family, and she can't do that anymore for fear of running into Allan on an outing."

Federal Industry Minister James Moore tweeted that the review board's decision was "an insult" to the victims and "should trigger a systemic review."

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said that Friday's decision has outraged the community and that he will urge council to ask the B.C. government to re-evaluate the board's decision. 

"We're just shocked by this. When this board makes a decision, they're not taking into consideration what the effects are on the community," he said. 

"They're looking at it in a silo. They're not taking into consideration the family that lives in the community and the citizens that are here and are now expected to try to understand and comprehend this decision." 

Family want Schoenborn labelled high-risk offender

The decision was made by a three-member panel that spent a month deliberating over the case that has come under intense public scrutiny and was even used as an example by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The ruling comes even as the Crown warned panel members to heed new Conservative government legislation empowering them to hold mentally ill offenders indefinitely.

Schoenborn's lawyer has said in the past that approval of outings for his client could make it more difficult for the province to persuade a court to label the man a "high risk" offender.

Clarke said that her family will still work with the Crown to apply to B.C. Supreme Court to label the 47-year-old a "high risk" offender.

"This is uncharted territory.… Our hope is that the Supreme Court will look at the facts without the review board bias and find Allan a high risk."

Clarke also took aim at the B.C. Review Board directly, calling on Premier Christy Clark and B.C.'s minister of justice to review the board and its operations at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

"The dysfunctional nature of the board and forensic hospital administration is shameful," she said. "These two entities have cultivated a culture which condones conflict of interest while ignoring public safety. This is a system screaming out for reform."

Lengthy hearing

The hearing for Schoenborn's request for brief outings lasted four days, prolonged by adversarial questioning by the Crown of each witness. Most hearings take just hours.

The Crown challenged the hospital's director, a prominent expert on assessing and treating not criminally responsible patients, arguing that evaluations of Schoenborn's risk to the community were "not up to standard or consistent with the best practices."

Prosecutor Wendy Dawson told the board reviewing Schoenborn's case that allowing him to have supervised outings was gambling on public safety, and would not align with the year-old Conservative legislation, Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act.

The Criminal Justice Branch said at the time it was updating its files on Schoenborn's status and would wait until the ruling before determining whether to ask the court to designate him "high risk."

The hospital's lawyer countered during the hearing that public safety is always the first consideration before granting a patient limited release, and its goal is rehabilitation.

Schoenborn's treating psychiatrist said that while the man remains a "significant threat," he is at low risk of escape and would be under constant watch.

The hearing was told Schoenborn has 11 recorded incidents of physical or verbal aggression inside the hospital since his last review, mainly in relation to one other patient.

With files from CBC

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