What do Martin Rondeau, Vincent Li and Shafqat Nagra have in common? As awful as it sounds, each of these men killed an innocent person and got nothing more than a slap on the wrist. At the end of their trials, they were declared not criminally responsible and basically got away with murder.
Alright, so it’s not that simple. Rondeau was apparently having a seizure when he beat the 80-year-old nun to death at the Sisters of Providence convent in Montreal. When Li killed Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in August of 2008, he was apparently told by God Himself to behead the “force of evil” that was sitting next to him. Nagra killed his wife and says he doesn’t remember leaving her body in someone’s driveway. The details of her murder were never released by the Peel Regional Police.
Soon, Rondeau will be moving into a secluded home, where he will receive occasional visits from his social worker to make sure he is taking his medication to control his seizures. Nagra and Li are living in mental institutions where they are undergoing treatment for their conditions. Their fate now lies in the opinions of their doctors, not the courts. Once they are deemed fit to be released, they will be walking the same streets as you and me.
This could take years. A murderer declared not criminally responsible will spend an average of three years in a mental hospital after the verdict, according to a 2003 study published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. But each case is reviewed by the courts on a year-to-year basis. Vincent Li’s re-evaluation is coming up on March 5. It is unlikely he will be released after only a year in treatment, but according to his doctors, he is said to be responding well to his medication and his release could come within the next few years.
But what will happen once these men are released? They will be under very little supervision, with only a social worker occasionally checking in on them. According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 47 per cent of people declared not criminally responsible will, at some point within the first two years of their release, commit another crime. Who’s to say Vincent Li won’t stop taking his medication and end up killing another innocent person?
There is also the chance they may never be released. The average cost of individual mental patients is undetermined, but according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian government spends $14.4 billion annually on treating people with mental disorders. Nagra and Li are both 41-years-old. They could easily live another 40 years; if they are continually incarcerated over the course of these years, they will end up costing Canadian tax-payers millions of dollars.
Our options for these unfortunate criminals are getting slim. Institutionalizing them for the rest of their lives is very costly, but setting them free with minor supervision is a huge gamble. There seems to be no middle ground. Canada should reassess its justice system and create new cost-effective ways to keep the criminals safe, both from the public and from themselves, because getting away with murder should never be an option.