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ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENCE - Actus reus - Mens rea - Insanity or mental disorder - Finding of not criminally responsible

Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 8:54 AM  

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Appeal by the accused, McBride, from a finding she committed criminal harassment, and from a verdict finding her not criminally responsible (NCR) on account of mental disorder. The accused engaged in harassing conduct over a 14-year period, showing obsessive tendencies toward Mark McBride that resulted in prior convictions. The current charges arose after the accused changed her name from Boyd to McBride, implying marriage. After her arrest, a search warrant resulted in seizure of several items disclosing the extent of the accused's interest in the victim. The Crown submitted that the accused suffered from a mental disorder and was thus exempt from criminal responsibility. A forensic psychiatrist reported that the accused suffered from Delusional Disorder, Erotomanic Type. The central theme of the delusion involved idealized romantic love and spiritual union with another person without any basis in reality. The accused lacked insight into her illness. The psychiatrist opined that the accused's behaviour at the time of the offences resulted from the severity of her chronic delusional state, precluding any ability to understand her actions were morally wrong. The accused testified that she did not suffer from mental illness and acknowledged she did not have a relationship with McBride. She stated that she changed her name as a means of closure rather than in anticipation of marriage. The trial judge concluded that criminal harassment was established beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge accepted the Crown’s psychiatric evidence and concluded the accused minimized and lacked insight into the wrongfulness of her actions. An NCR verdict was entered. The accused appealed.

HELD: Appeal from NCR verdicts allowed. The accused’s contention that her name change was directed to her employer rather than the McBrides, and therefore did not constitute threatening conduct, was rejected. There was ample support for the finding that the name change constituted a tool of intimidation, given that the accused would eventually learn of the name change given the small size of the parties’ community. There was no error in the trial judge’s conclusion that the actus reus of criminal harassment was proven. However, in assessing whether the accused was NCR, the trial judge misdirected his attention to whether the accused knew her act was wrong instead of focusing on the principal issue of whether the accused’s mental disorder rendered her incapable of knowing her act was wrong. The NCR verdict was thus tainted by legal error and was set aside. A conditional discharge was entered on both counts with two concurrent 12-month terms of probation.

R. v. McBride, [2018] O.J. No. 1759, Ontario Court of Appeal, D. Watt, D.M. Brown and L.B. Roberts JJ.A., March 29, 2018. Digest No. TLD-April162008001