Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find disturbing.
A man suffering from psychosis is not criminally responsible for a vicious assault that almost took the life of his four-year-old nephew, a Nunavut judge has found.
The man pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder. Counsel requested that he should undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine whether he was in the grips of a mental disorder.
In March 2021, the offender approached the four-year-old victim in the street, hoisted him into the air and slammed the boy head first into the ground. He did this twice.
The boy’s mother witnessed the horrific incident from a nearby home. She was unable to prevent it and, by the time she reached him, her son laid on the ground unconscious while his uncle walked away without saying a word.
The victim had a baseball-sized lump on the right side of his head. After being assessed by medical staff and found to have a brain bleed, the child wasn’t expected to survive. Following a medevac flight to Edmonton, he underwent 12 hours of surgery, which involved the removal of half of his brain due to the severe damage. He was put on life support, but his condition improved markedly and 10 months later he was able to return home to his family.
“Nonetheless, he continues to face a future with limitations and medical interventions. It is not possible to say whether he will ever make a full recovery,” the court decision reads.
The offender was arrested and told police that he “was sent on a mission to kill the victim because the victim was the son of Satan.”
The man believed that God told him he must kill the victim, the court decision explained.
The psychiatric evaluation revealed that the man suffered from a psychosis that was not caused by substance abuse. The assailant has been in custody since he was arrested. Psychotic symptoms, with religious overtones, have persisted. He has reportedly responded well to anti-psychotic medication.
The Crown prosecutor subsequently applied to have the offender declared not criminally responsible for his violent attack on his nephew, an application that the defence lawyer supported.
“I find that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder that rendered him incapable of knowing that the act was wrong. Accordingly, I find him not criminally responsible because of mental disorder,” Justice Susan Cooper wrote in her Feb. 3 decision that was circulated to the media on Feb. 24.
Cooper referred the matter to the Nunavut Criminal Code Review Board, which oversees the placement of offenders found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. The board can order guilty parties to be detained in a hospital or be released into the community with or without conditions.
In the meantime, Cooper is requiring the offender to be held in custody in a hospital, likely a mental health facility in Ontario, where he previously received treatment.
The court prevents the identification of the parties involved in this case and did not disclose the community where the offence occurred.