Decision on bus killer Li's walks explained

A Manitoba review panel has released its reasons for granting Greyhound bus killer Vince Li daily walks on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital.

This story contains disturbing details

Vince Li, a Chinese immigrant who became a Canadian citizen in 2007, was declared not criminally responsible for the killing of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in 2008. ((John Woods/Canadian Press))

A Manitoba review panel has released its reasons for granting Greyhound bus killer Vince Li daily walks on the grounds of the psychiatric hospital where he's being held.

The Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) is the provincial body charged with conducting a yearly assessment into Li's treatment and detention.

Li, 41, has been in a maximum-security portion of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre since he was found not criminally responsible for the brutal killing of Tim McLean, 22.

McLean was killed on a bus while returning home to Winnipeg from Edmonton, where he had been working at a carnival. As the bus neared Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean for no apparent reason. He also ate some of the body parts and cut off McLean's head.

Controversy erupted in late May when the CCRB approved a request from Li's doctor that he be granted escorted outdoor walks on the grounds of the hospital, which currently has no security fence around it.

Vigilantism possible: Crown

The Crown and McLean's family opposed granting Li any privileges, arguing that the risks he poses to the public are too great to manage.

Prosecutor Corrine Deegan also argued Li could face harm from people who may see him outside the hospital.

Tim McLean, 22, was on his way home to Winnipeg when he was slain on a Greyhound bus on July 30, 2008. (Family photo)

However, in a report released on Tuesday outlining the CCRB's decision, chairman John Stefaniuk wrote on behalf of the board that evidence given by Li's doctor showed he poses a low risk of escape or self-harm and he has been compliant with his treatment.

"The board is not prepared to accept the submission advanced by Ms. Deegan that absolutely no degree of risk is to be tolerated," Stefaniuk wrote.

"If that were the applicable standard … it would be difficult to imagine how any patients under the jurisdiction of this board would have any prospect of acquiring even modest liberties."

Li's outdoor walks, which will start at 15 minutes and increase incrementally to a maximum of one hour twice a day, will always be done in the company of two staff members, Stefaniuk stated.

The hospital is in the process of hiring two security officers, he wrote.

"It is our view that a sufficient level of safety is provided in ordering that Mr. Li be supervised by two staff members, at least one of whom is equipped with a two-way radio or cellphone," Stefaniuk stated.

These security provisions are the least restrictive in balancing the public's right to protection with Li's reintegration into society, the board said.

Appeal possible

The Crown is considering an appeal of the CCRB decision and has two weeks from Tuesday to file notice with the courts.

Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan has previously said that Li's walks will not begin until the hospital improves security.

Swan did not say whether security upgrades might include constructing a fence, hiring extra staff or other measures.

A link to the CCRB's reasons for granting Li escorted walks can be found at the top right of this story.