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Tory MP urges board to reject unescorted walks by Li

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba Conservative MP James Bezan says granting additional privileges to Vince Li is an "insult" to the victim's family.

Bezan, the MP for Selkirk-Interlake, released a statement Tuesday after a provincial review board was told on Monday Li is a low risk to reoffend.

Psychiatrists and lawyers told the board Li should be granted increased privileges, including unescorted walks on the grounds of Selkirk Mental Health Centre, and escorted walks into Lockport and Winnipeg.

Li was found not criminally responsible for the 2008 slaying of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus headed for Winnipeg. Li, who has suffered from schizophrenia, has been held at Selkirk Mental Health Centre ever since.

His doctors said Monday he takes his medication, doesn't suffer from hallucinations and appreciates the gravity of what he did.

Bezan said Tuesday he is "very concerned" about the recommendations.

"It's an insult to the family of Mr. Li's victim, Tim McLean," Bezan said.

He said it's why the Tories have introduced the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. A recommendation last spring that Li be allowed to have escorted walks away from the hospital prompted Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to review existing laws. He introduced the legislation in February.

The proposed law creates a new category of high-risk offenders who can't be considered for release by a provincial review board until a court agrees to revoke the designation.

Individuals in this category can't have their status reviewed for three years, be given unescorted passes to leave custody, and can only get escorted passes under very narrow circumstances.

The law also makes public safety the main consideration for provincial review boards when considering what to do with offenders deemed not criminally responsible.

Victims and their families will be notified when the offender is released. Review boards can order offenders to have no contact with their victims, and victims can request that offender stay away from designated places.

The law can be applied retroactively to offenders who are still receiving treatment.

Earlier this week, a coalition of mental-health advocates said the bill was developed without consulting mental-health experts.

They called it unnecessary.

They argued it further stigmatizes the mentally ill, incorrectly suggests the chance a mentally ill offender reoffends is connected to the brutality of the act committed and makes people unnecessarily afraid of those with mental illness.

Those found not criminally responsible account for a very small number of offenders and with proper treatment, have a much lower rate of reoffending than inmates who come out of the federal prison system, at about 7.5 per cent compared with more than 40 per cent.

Bezan urged the review board considering Li's case not to follow the recommendations for further privileges.

"Our Conservative government has always put victims first, and always will. I hope the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board does the same."

The board is expected to make a decision within a week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2013 A3

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