A mental health expert says he’d be fine putting up Will Baker – formerly known as Vince Li – in his own home.
A review board gave Baker a full discharge on Friday, ending his involvement with the justice system after he was found not criminally responsible for beheading 22-year-old Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in July 2008. Baker was suffering symptoms of schizophrenia at the time.
Chris Sommerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, has had regular contact with Baker over the last eight years. He told 650 CKOM host Murray Wood that Baker would be welcome in his home.
“Because I have lived experience of working with people with schizophrenia who do well and I have a brother with schizophrenia, no, I wouldn’t have a problem,” he said.
Sommerville acknowledged that many Canadians don’t share his views.
“And I’m not trying to convince everybody. Because they don’t know (Baker) like the medical treatment team does. I understand that,” he said.
While the absolute discharge releases Baker from any legal obligations surrounding his ongoing treatment, Sommerville pointed out he has already volunteered to continue checking in with his doctors.
“He says he wants to stay in touch. He wants to see his doctor regularly. He wants to see me regularly. He’s involved with the mental health community. He’s just not walking away like some people do,” he said.
Sommerville added that most people don’t know the full facts of Baker’s case. He said records show Baker was picked up by RCMP about two years before he killed McLean and was placed in a hospital in Etobicoke under the Mental Health Act.
For some reason, Sommerville said, Baker was released after just two weeks.
“He should have been in the hospital long enough for the medication to take in. Because of the Personal Information Act, that’s never come forward as to what really happened,” he said.
He added it’s clear the authorities failed both Baker and the public by allowing him to leave hospital before getting proper treatment and training in how to manage his condition,.
“The myth is that he went off his medication. No. He never went off his medication — he was told to go.”
Victim’s family lawyer calls decision ‘a travesty of justice’
Jay Prober, a lawyer for the McLean family, told Wood his clients were shocked when they learned Baker was discharged.
“Part of the McLean family just emailed me (saying) there’s no justice for them,” he said. “This decision ignores the rights of the victims here, namely the McLean family.”
Prober said he and the family had hoped to see Baker forced to live under court-imposed conditions monitoring his ongoing treatment.
“It’s not as if he’s being kept in a locked facility – that would be outrageous when he’s on his road to recovery and may well have recovered,” he said.
Prober said it’s his view that the board’s ruling ignored direction from the Supreme Court of Canada requiring it to consider harm to the public when making its decisions.
“‘Significant risk to the public’ includes, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, psychological harm,” he said.
“Well the McLean family is part of the public and there are other members of the public that will be psychologically harmed by this decision.”