Defence fights second psych assessment of man charged with killing Lorette couple
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Lawyers for a man charged in the slaying of an elderly Lorette couple are fighting a move by prosecutors to secure a forensic assessment of their client, just two months before he is set to go on trial.
Karlton Dean Reimer, 28, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the March 2021 stabbing deaths of 77-year-old Dennis Lidgett and his wife Bernadette Lidgett, 73, at their home. The Lidgetts were killed months before they would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Reimer’s lawyers say they will argue at trial in November that he was not criminally responsible for the killings.
Crown prosecutors secured a court order last March that required Reimer undergo a forensic psychiatric assessment, but a 30-day deadline expired before an assessment could be started and the Crown didn’t apply for a 60-day extension, court was told Wednesday.
Court heard Reimer was being held at the top of the priority list, at the Crown’s request, when a psychiatric bed at Health Sciences Centre became available July 4, but with no court order in place, the assessment was not completed.
Reimer’s lawyers, who have secured their own private psychiatric assessment, argued the Crown’s move to secure a second assessment order was an “abuse of process.”
“It’s a consistent refrain of the courts that these matters are going on too long,” lawyer Leonard Tailleur told Queen’s Bench Justice Shaun Greenberg. “(Reimer) has no control over the Crown’s willy-nilly applications while he is sitting in custody and presumed innocent… It’s an abuse of process. ‘Well, we can’t do it then, so we will wait for three months and try again.’ This is the fallout of this sort of nonsense.
“We are asking the court to indicate to the Crown: you had your 30 days,” Tailleur said. “If they had an argument as to some unforeseen circumstances, they could have filed a motion and we could have dealt with that.”
“Good faith efforts” were made to complete the assessment as quickly as possible, said Crown attorney Andrew Slough, who argued “encouraging improvements” to the forensic psychiatry department, including an increase in the number of forensic psychiatrists from three to five, improved the likelihood an assessment, if ordered, would be completed within the 30-day time frame.
“Assessments (are necessary) to find that people who aren’t culpable aren’t punished… and to ensure those who are morally culpable are held to account and brought to justice,” Slough said. “Not granting an order promotes a stark result.”
Criminal responsibility assessments have been the subject of significant delays in recent years, with low staffing levels and a lack of available hospital beds cited as contributing factors.
According to statistics compiled by Reimer’s lawyers and provided to court, of 63 criminal responsibility assessments ordered in 2021, just 45 were completed. Of those 45, only 7, or 15.6 per cent, were completed within the mandated 30-day time period.
Reimer’s initial assessment could not be completed because there were other people ahead of him who had been charged with homicides, and there was no bed available at Health Science Centre’s 15-bed psychiatric unit, Dr. Hygiea Casiano, director of adult forensic and mental health services, told court.
“Assessments (are necessary) to find that people who aren’t culpable aren’t punished… and to ensure those who are morally culpable are held to account and brought to justice… Not granting an order promotes a stark result.” – Crown attorney Andrew Slough
Casiano said continuing improvements in the psychiatric unit, including renovations to beds to reduce the incidence of self-harm, leave forensic staff in a better position to meet assessment deadlines.
“If an order is issued, we are ready to accept Mr. Reimer into our unit,” she said.
In July, Reimer’s lawyers lost a charter challenge to quash a move to try him without the benefit of a preliminary hearing.
The Crown is proceeding by direct indictment, meaning the case will go straight to trial without a preliminary hearing.
Preliminary hearings are held in provincial court, after which a judge rules whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
In 2019, the federal government passed a bill limiting preliminary hearings to those cases that involve offences with a maximum sentence of 14 years or more in prison, arguing it would reduce the time needed to bring cases to trial.
Tailleur alleged the Crown decision to file a direct indictment is based on a policy directed at eliminating all preliminary hearings, and not on the specific circumstances of Reimer’s case.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.