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Conte found not criminally responsible

Sarah Nickerson was a well-loved member of the Sooke community. - File
Sarah Nickerson was a well-loved member of the Sooke community.
— image credit: File

Alex Conte, 21, the Sooke man who was on trial for killing his mother Sarah Nickerson last January, has been found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for her death.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Macaulay, in passing judgement, stated that he did not think Conte thought of his mother as human at the time and described her death as bizarre.

Two psychiatrists have diagnosed Conte as a schizophrenic. He was psychotic at the time he killed his mother on Jan. 8, 2012.

He will continue to be treated at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam.

His lawyer, William Heflin, is reported to have stated that this whole tragedy was probably preventable if treatment facilities had not been closed.

A number of factors led to the closing and downsizing of psychiatric facilities, overcrowding and understaffing along with advent of effective medications to control psychosis and severe mood disorders.

"In the 1960s psychiatric hospitals were the closing and downsizing of without providing adequate funding at the community level to provide for psychological support and rehabilitation outside the hospital.  Thus, communities were left ill-prepared to provide discharged patients with appropriate support.  Many individuals, disabled by persistent psychiatric illnesses, were left merely to subsist in the community.  Although now living in a less restrictive environment, they received dramatically fewer services and less care if any care at all.  According to numerous witnesses, this is a critical lesson that should never be forgotten in any movement to reform the mental health system.The lack of proper services and supports in the community for those suffering from mental illnesses resulted in:

·        a high frequency of relapse (back to the psychotic state) and, therefore, increased readmission rates to hospitals;

·        the “revolving door syndrome”, where patients, after readmission to the hospital and treatment, were discharged back to inadequate care in the community, only to become ill again and start the process all over again;

·        increased homelessness;

·        increased criminal behaviour and incarceration (sometimes for minor crimes)."

Excerpts from: Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction:

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