Saskatoon

La Ronge restaurant owner's killer could become 'successful individual,' psychiatrist tells court

A psychiatrist told a Saskatoon courtroom an offender involved in the brutal killing of Simon Grant is remorseful and could become a "successful individual" with the right rehabilitation.

Court to decide if offender will receive youth or adult sentence for fatal 2017 beating of Simon Grant

A memorial set up outside of Simon Grant's restaurant in La Ronge, Sask., is seen in April 2017. (Kandis Riese)

A psychiatrist told a Saskatoon courtroom an offender involved in the brutal 2017 killing of Simon Grant is remorseful and could become a "successful individual" with the right rehabilitation.

Whether that rehabilitation should occur through a youth sentence, or in custody in an adult facility, is the question at hand for Judge Robert Lane.

A sentencing hearing that began in La Ronge last week continued in Saskatoon today.

Grant's widow, Cora Laich — who was at the courthouse on Wednesday — said she has been disappointed by the hearing's focus on rehabilitating the offender.

"It just takes so much away from the actual crime — Simon was beat with a baseball bat and left there to die," said Laich, adding that she and Grant had taken the individual into their home to help him before the attack.

He was among a number of young people she and Grant tried to help over the years.  

Cora Laich says the hearing for the last offender to be sentenced in the killing of her husband has put too much emphasis on rehabilitation. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

The offender was 17 when he killed Grant in April 2017. He is one of three people who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the violent beating death inside the La Ronge restaurant Grant owned.

The other two, aged 14 and 18 at the time, have already been sentenced to three years in intensive rehabilitative custody and seven years in prison, respectively.

Psychiatrist Declan Quinn, who testified Wednesday, was the last witness to appear at the hearing before lawyers make their closing arguments.

Crown wants adult sentence

The Crown, which is pushing for an adult sentence, questioned Quinn about the findings in his psychiatric reports on the offender.  

Quinn, who met with the offender on two occasions in 2018 and 2019, said the youth is being treated for depression in custody at the Kilburn Hall youth facility in Saskatoon.

Quinn said his assessments suggest the offender displayed some symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder, which can lead to unpredictable anger and abusive behaviour, among other symptoms.

He said an "integrated" treatment model involving physicians and medical input would be the best approach to rehabilitating the offender, as well as mentoring to help him set goals and work on overcoming past trauma from childhood adversity.

Defence lawyer Jessie Buydens says a youth sentence in an intensive rehabilitation program would be a more effective way to reduce the chances of reoffending. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Defence laywer Jessie Buydens questioned Quinn about the specifics of his recommendations, asking him to clarify what he meant by the need for a "controlled environment" and "integrated" treatment for the offender.

Buydens is asking for a three-year maximum intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision sentence, which she said provides more support and rehabilitation to reduce his chances of reoffending.

'He has qualities that are very workable'

She said that would consist of two years in a youth facility and one year under community supervision, in addition to the two years that he's already been in custody.

Quinn told the court he believes the young man could have a successful future but he needs to be "nurtured and supported" through therapy, mentoring and medical oversight in a controlled environment.

"[He has] qualities that are very workable," said Quinn.

"I could see him potentially having a role as a leader in a group setting if he can leave some things behind and get beyond them."

Quinn added that the offender had described his own strengths as caring about people and being good with his hands. 

Simon Grant and Cora Laich. 'You drive home the point to me how incredibly important these proceedings are,' Judge Robert Lane told Laich at Wednesday's hearing. (Facebook)

In response to questioning from Buydens, the psychiatrist said putting the youth in an environment with adult offenders could "potentially reinforce the cycle" of negative behaviour.

He said the individual has expressed remorse.

"He said if he could have changed things he would," said Quinn.

"Not a day goes by that he doesn't think about what went on."

Buydens also provided information to the judge about the Str8 Up gang-exit program. Andre Poilievre, the founder of the program, was present for the hearing.   

Judge thanks widow

Judge Robert Lane said he plans to deliver his decision on May 30 in La Ronge, after the Crown and the defence make their closing arguments on May 27.

"At the end of the day there are no winners in whatever decision comes down from this court," said Lane.

"It's a horrifyingly sad time for everyone involved."

He thanked Laich for her regular attendance at the hearings in La Ronge, saying she "validates the process."

"You drive home the point to me how incredibly important these proceedings are," he said.

"I always knew it but when I see the dedication and I see the wounds, it's incredibly important."

Lane said he will be reviewing the decision that delivered an adult sentence to the shooter in the 2016 killings in La Loche, another Saskatchewan case involving a 17-year-old, in considering his decision on the matter. Lawyers have appealed that sentence. 

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Laich said she was disappointed the closing arguments had not been heard Wednesday.

She believes an adult sentence would provide a better transition for the offender when he is finally released back into the community.

Laich, who no longer lives in La Ronge, said she feels an adult sentence is important for the community where the crime occurred.

"Seeing on social media the different crimes that are still going on in La Ronge and continuing, and possibly getting worse, I think that the community wants to see a change in how offenders are handled because it's also setting a precedent," she said.