Hamilton man found not criminally responsible in abduction of child

The Hamilton man who was charged with abducting a small child from an elementary school last fall has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.

Dakota Hart faced allegations he abducted a child from the playground at Earl Kitchener elementary

Hamilton man Dakota Hart, expects to find out within two week if he will be granted a transfer from a Hamilton facility to a Toronto facility. (Skylar.tigblog.org)

The Hamilton man who was charged with abducting a small child from an elementary school last fall has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.

Dakota Hart, 47, appeared in court Wednesday on charges he abducted a child from the playground at Earl Kitchener Elementary School in Hamilton. The judge agreed with the recommendation of both the defence and the crown attorneys that Hart not be held criminally responsible. Last week, the courts heard an expert opinion that Hart was suffering from a severe mental disorder at the time of the incident.

Ontario Court Justice Bernd Zabel praised the psychiatric assessment done by Dr. Joseph Ferecz presented in court last week as "one of the most forceful" expert opinions he's heard given in all his years on the bench.

Ferecz testified that Hart's mental state on the day of the incident was "disorganized" and meant he was likely unable to "appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions".

Assistant crown attorney Craig Fraser had initially opposed the defence's suggestion that Hart be held not criminally responsible, but changed his mind after cross-examining Ferecz.

Hart will remain in the "highest level" of security with no privileges pending a hearing by the Ontario Review Board within 45 days, said Hart's defence attorney, Andrew Confente, after Wednesday's decision.

At that hearing the board will evaluate next steps in Hart's detention and treatment — it will ask "Does Mr. Hart present a significant threat to the safety of the public?" Confente said.

'Acute state of mania'

Hart faced allegations that he ran off with a young boy from the playground at the west Hamilton public school last year. An adult intervened and the boy was shaken but unharmed.

Last Thursday, Dr. Ferecz described Hart's mental state at the time as an "acute state of mania." 

"I don't think we can ever know with total certainty what was going on in his mind," Ferecz said. "I'm not entirely sure he knows why he did this."

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court Thursday, an off-duty police officer and other witnesses saw Hart last October in the vicinity of Earl Kitchener school without a shirt on, with "a frantic look about him."

Another witness then saw a young boy "running frantically" up Homewood Avenue with Hart chasing after him with a "crazed, angry look in his eyes," the statement reads. Hart caught up to the boy and threw him over his shoulder, while the boy was kicking and screaming.

Then, court documents show, Hart picked up an election sign, tore away the display part and held the metal post portion to the boy's face while yelling at him. Hart then walked off with the boy. The witness lost sight of them for about 45 seconds, before the boy freed himself and ran back, saying he wanted to go back to school.

Hart was picked up by police later that day after he was seen wandering without a shirt on, holding a broom and speaking gibberish.

According to Ferecz, Hart has an extensive psychiatric history and has been in and out of psychiatric facilities in both Ontario and Alberta in recent years. Doctors have diagnosed him with bipolar mood disorder with mania and psychotic features. He is also fixated on a previous family court-related case, Ferecz said.

Hart also has a criminal history. He faced six threat-related charges against former Alberta Premier Alison Redford for emails and social media posts in 2012. He was found not guilty on the five charges against Redford, but guilty on a threat charge involving an Alberta justice lawyer.

Hart sent the threatening email to an Alberta Justice lawyer in 2012. He was convicted on that count while a jury found him not guilty of five others, including the accusation he had threatened Redford and her daughter.

With files from Adam Carter and CBC Calgary