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'I would have pleaded guilty': B.C. teen appeals not criminally responsible convictions

"Instead, I would have pleaded guilty in order to get a normal youth sentence that would be guaranteed to end, even if it meant I had to go to jail for a while."
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B.C.'s Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal of a teen's arson conviction where she was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

A B.C. teenager who faced years in hospital following convictions from a not criminally responsible verdict has won a partial reprieve at the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The appellant, known as D.L.B., was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) regarding two counts of assault and one count each of assault causing bodily harm, arson damaging property and mischief.

The Court of Appeal allowed her appeal for arson but upheld all other convictions.

The events happened when the girl was only 12- and 13-years-old.

D.L.B. was charged with mischief after allegedly acting aggressively and causing damage by breaking a glass door and throwing cups, plates and food in a group home kitchen in September 2018.

In October 2018, she was charged with arson after allegedly stealing two lighters from a corner store and using them to ignite nearby shrubs.

Then, in February 2019, she was charged with one count of assault after reportedly hitting, scratching and pulling the hair of a registered nurse at a youth mental health facility.

D.L.B. was also charged with one count of assault and one count of assault causing bodily harm after she allegedly struck, scratched and attempted to kick a care worker and a security guard at the same centre.

A youth psychiatric assessment recommended an NCRMD finding, with one doctor reporting that "her mental disorder was so severe so as to deprive her of the mental capacity to appreciate the nature and quality of her actions."

D.L.B.'s lawyer and the Crown agreed at trial in 2019 that the not criminally responsible finding was appropriate.

She now wants that verdict set aside, saying she was uninformed about the consequences of the not criminally responsible ruling.

"I would not have agreed to the NCRMD verdicts if I had understood it meant I would have to stay in the hospital or follow conditions until the review board decides to absolutely discharge me, and that this could take years or possibly never happen," D.L.B. said in an affidavit.

"Instead, I would have pleaded guilty in order to get a normal youth sentence that would be guaranteed to end, even if it meant I had to go to jail for a while," she said.

The three-judge, unanimous decision said the Crown conceded that the verdict for the arson offence was unreasonable but said the verdicts on the other counts were reasonable and not the product of any miscarriage of justice.

"The verdict on that offence is unreasonable because there was no evidence before the court to support a finding that the appellant was either incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong," Justice Bruce Butler wrote for the court.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

Twitter.com/jhainswo