Bid to stop freedom for Sgt. Ryan Russell's killer
By Michele Mandel
First posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014 07:30 PM EST | Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2014 08:23 PM EST
TORONTO - Just weeks after his conviction last spring, cop killer Richard Kachkar was already eligible for escorted passes into the community — when even his own lawyer hadn’t asked for such lenient privileges.
Sunday marks three years since the homeless man suffering a psychotic break stole an idling snowplow and ran down Sgt. Ryan Russell during a bizarre rampage up and down Avenue Rd.
Last March, a jury found Kachkar, 47, not criminally responsible for the young father’s death.
For Russell’s widow, Christine, it was hard enough to accept that her husband’s killer would not be doing jail time but would go instead to a psychiatric hospital determined by the Ontario Review Board. What was even more infuriating was that the ORB ignored a joint submission by the defence and Crown and actually granted Kachkar even more freedom than they’d requested.
Thankfully, the Crown heads to the Ontario Court of Appeal on Jan. 20 to get those community passes revoked. “The (Ontario Review) Board effectively abdicated its duty to provide for the safety of the public by basing its decision on a belief, rather than on any evidence, that community passes would not put the public at risk.”
At his ORB hearing last April, the panel heard heartwrenching victim impact statements from Russell’s family. They also heard that both lawyers for Kachkar and the attorney general agreed he should be held in medium security at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and granted escorted visits on the hospital’s grounds.
But when it came back with its ruling, the board took everyone by surprise when it went further and also gave Kachkar escorted passes into Whitby, despite finding that he remains a “significant threat to the safety of the public.”
Russell’s widow Christine called the ORB decision “a slap in the face.”
“Neither Mr. Kachkar nor his counsel asked that he be allowed off the hospital grounds and into the community,” she said in a written statement after the April decision. “This is completely unacceptable.”
In its factum filed with the appeal court, the Crown argues that the “unreasonable” decision places the public at risk. The five-member panel should have given notice that they were contemplating the unusual step of going beyond the joint recommendation. If they’d known, they would have called evidence as to why it wasn’t safe to give Kachkar more freedom.
“The last time the Respondent enjoyed access to the community was in early January 2011,” the Crown notes in its court filing. “He entered the streets of Toronto, stole a snowplow, caused numerous collisions and threatened the safety of motorists and pedestrians alike. The police were called to stop him. One officer was tragically killed and another’s safety was endangered in the process.”
At the hearing, Dr. Philip Klassen testified that Kachkar’s mental illness wasn’t well understood especially since he hadn’t begun treatment. And still the ORB decided to grant him community access?
“From a risk management perspective, the Board was confronted with many uncertainties,” argues the Crown. “In the face of these uncertainties, it was not reasonable for the Board, without hearing submissions or evidence pertaining to the issue, to make provision for a return into the general community, where once again the police may be called upon to intervene.”
The Crown is asking that the ORB’s decision be overturned and a new hearing held where the issue of community passes can be “properly considered.”
In reply, the hospital contends the generous ruling should stand, that Kachkar’s prognosis is good, he doesn’t pose a high AWOL risk and hasn’t posed a problem during any of his 131 off ward privileges between July 9 and Oct. 25. His psychiatrist calls him a “highly co-operative, compliant and pleasant patient.”
Police union president Mike McCormack plans to be at the Court of Appeal next week, representing Russell’s colleagues as well as his widow, who will be out of the country.
“She wishes she could be there,” he told the Toronto Sun. “She supports the Crown appeal. It’s the right thing to do, and we’re hopeful the Crown will be successful.”
But this would only be a stop gap measure, of course.
Kachkar’s mental health status must be reviewed by the ORB every year — and the cop killer already seems to be on the fast track for release.
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