Skip to content

B.C. Review Board considers hospital discretion over Schoenborn community leave

Schoenborn found not criminally responsible in the 2008 deaths of his three children
Allan Schoenborn is shown in this sketch attending a British Columbia Review Board in Coquitlam, B.C. on Thursday March 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Felicity Don

The British Columbia Review Board is considering whether a psychiatric hospital director should have the discretion to allow up to 28 days of overnight leave for a man who was found not criminally responsible of killing his three children.

Allan Schoenborn’s lawyer told the board during an annual hearing on Thursday that his client has “done nothing but keep a generally positive trajectory” since being granted some level of leave from the hospital. Giving the director the ability to approve overnight leave would not necessarily mean Schoenborn would receive it, Rishi Gill told the three-member panel.

The central issue is not whether Schoenborn will be granted a 28-day leave, but “it is about working towards potentially that goal, down the road, at the discretion of the director,” he said.

Dr. Robert Lacroix, a psychiatrist at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, said Schoenborn’sprogress in treatment has been positive and his psychotic illness is in “complete remission” with a medication he takes monthly.

Schoenborn would need to have housing and employment lined up if he were granted overnight, un-escorted leave, and he would continue individual counselling and other supportive services, Lacroix told the hearing, which was held via videoconference.

Schoenborn has been held at the hospital since 2010 after being convicted of killing his 10-year-old daughter and two sons, aged eight and five, in April 2008.

He was diagnosed with delusional disorder and told his B.C. Supreme Court trial he killed his children to protect them from an imagined threat of sexual abuse.

He was found not criminally responsible and ordered to be held in custody at the psychiatric hospital, with the review board having responsibility for his case.

The chair of the review board adjourned the hearing Thursday, saying Schoenborn should be notified of its decision by Monday with written reasons to follow.

Crown lawyer Michelle Booker told the panel they’re seeking to maintain the existing conditions of Schoenborn’s custody order, which allow him the opportunity for un-escorted leave during the day, with certain limits, but not for up to 28 days.

The Crown remains concerned about his “anger problems” and reactions to insults, whether real or perceived, and the risk of his past history with alcohol, Booker said.

Questioned by Booker, Lacroix said Schoenbornhas been the subject of real slights and insults at the hospital, not just perceived, and that some staff members approach him differently than other patients due to the notoriety of his case.

Lacroix later told the panel that he believed Schoenborn would react differently and avoid conflict if he were recognized in the community, compared with the taunting and in several cases physical altercations he has experienced in the close quarters of the hospital, where he lives alongside other patients with mental illnesses.

Schoenborn has previously completed a treatment program for alcohol misuse, Lacroix said, and he has remained sober for more than 12 years at the institution.

Booker said any increase in the type or duration of leave should factor in Schoenborn’s willingness to continue with treatment for substance misuse.

Deborah Lovett,a lawyer for the hospital director, told the panel that her client sees it as a next step for Schoenborn to move to a less secure unit on the hospital grounds and work on day leave for some time before any potential overnights.

The review board gave the hospital the discretion to grant Schoenborn staff-supported community outings in 2015, and in 2020 the director was allowed to approve un-escorted leave during the day with various conditions and limits.

Another staff member at the hospital told the hearing that Schoenborn had been on about a dozen outings with his mother last year and several un-escorted outings to destinations including a park, restaurant and mall, with no concerns reported.

Booker said Schoenborn has had a handful of un-escorted day leaves that weren’t part of some structured programming, which is a “good first start,” but it’s not sufficient for the panel to assess whether he might be ready for overnight leaves.

Schoenborn is not allowed to possess any weapons or use alcohol or drugs, except those approved by a doctor, according to the review board’s 2020 decision.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: B.C. child killer has had 20 escorted trips in public: annual hearing