New Brunswick

Man behind machete attack at Fredericton college denied release from hospital

A former soldier who attacked three people with a machete-style knife at a Fredericton college four years ago has been denied a discharge from Restigouche Hospital Centre.

Luke Powers, found not criminally responsible in 2014, will be allowed extended leave

The board said it might reconsider Luke Powers' request to live in the community under conditions before the end of the year if his treatment team develops a comprehensive discharge plan by Nov. 18. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

A former soldier who attacked three people with a machete-style knife at a Fredericton college four years ago has been denied a discharge from Restigouche Hospital Centre.

Luke Powers' review board ruled Wednesday it needs to see a detailed discharge plan before it agrees to release him from the psychiatric facility in Campbellton.

"The board is very [cognizant] of the possible consequences of a relapse," said board member Lyne Raymond, speaking on behalf of the three-member panel.

The board did, however, loosen the conditions on Powers.

The 35-year-old is now allowed to leave the northern New Brunswick hospital for up to a few weeks at a time, though he is not allowed to be in the Fredericton region, where some of his victims still live.

The board has also asked Powers' treatment team to develop a comprehensive discharge plan by Nov. 18, detailing where he would live, and what supports would be in place.

If the board considers the plan satisfactory, it will hold another hearing before the end of the year.

Powers has been at the Restigouche Hospital Centre since April 2014 when he admitted to swinging a 43-centimetre knife at an instructor and two fellow students at Eastern College, sending them to hospital.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of indictable aggravated assault, and one count of indictable assault, but was found not criminally responsible for his actions because he was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of the attack.

Powers, pictured here before the 2014 attack, lives in an unlocked group-home section of the Restigouche Hospital Centre and was granted overnight leaves last year. (Facebook)

Powers currently lives in an unlocked group-home section of the hospital and, since June 2017, he has been allowed to be away overnight when accompanied by a family member.

He was seeking a conditional release, which would have allowed him to live in the community under conditions. He was thinking of moving to Moncton and possibly getting his own apartment, the board heard Tuesday during his annual review.

The board considered his request during a seven-hour hearing at Campbellton court, which included testimony from medical experts, victims and family and friends of Powers.

Very specific conditions have to be put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again.- Lyne Raymond, review board member

Two of Powers' doctors told the board he has made progress and recommended his return to society, with the proper supports in place. They said he presents a low risk for "grave violent behaviour," but needs structure and supervision.

"The board is in agreement that very specific conditions have to be put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again," Raymond said Wednesday.

During the 2014 trial, the courtroom heard Powers struck a friend in the head with the knife multiple times, slashed an instructor's head, arm and hand, and bit another student who helped to subdue him.

Powers, who had no prior criminal record, admitted to the facts of the case, but said he didn't remember what happened.

During Tuesday's hearing, social worker Jessica Paradis testified they had a "skeleton of a plan" for his release, but she said the Moncton mental health team couldn't open any files without a discharge order.

Raymond said with the board's decision, Paradis should now have more information to help craft a plan.

With files from Tori Weldon