Sawicki should stay in hospital: review

A man found not criminally responsible for stabbing his neighbour to death in a western Newfoundland village two years ago will remain in a psychiatric hospital.

A man found not criminally responsible for stabbing his neighbour to death in a western Newfoundland village two years ago will remain in a psychiatric hospital.

Christopher Sawicki, 49, will stay in the custody of the Waterford hospital in St. John's, against the advice of a psychiatrist who has recommended a transfer to Ontario.

A Newfoundland Supreme Court jury earlier this year determined that Sawicki, who had a lengthy history of mental illness, was not criminally responsible when he stabbed neighbour George Benoit, 57, to death in Piccadilly in April 2008.

The jurors were told Sawicki was in a manic episode of bipolar disorder on the night of the stabbing.

A new mental health review board ruling reveals that Sawicki wants to relocate to Ontario where his mother, father, brother and son are living.

The ruling says Dr. Nazir Ladha, a St. John's psychiatrist, recommended that Sawicki be transferred to the Mental Health Review Board in that province.

However, the Newfoundland and Labrador review board disagreed. Following a meeting earlier this month, it called for a detailed assessment of the family support available to Sawicki in Ontario before a move to that province is considered.

As well, the board expressed concern that Sawicki may not continue to take his medication if he were discharged.

It said that uncertainty makes Sawicki a significant risk to the safety of the public. The board has ordered that Sawicki remain in hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador and keep taking his medication. It also wants an assessment of Sawicki's potential substance abuse problem.

The board did allow Sawicki to obtain supervised passes to leave the hospital at the discretion of his psychiatrist.

The review board will take another look at Sawicki's case in June.