BC Review Board
The British Columbia Review Board (BCRB) is an administrative tribunal, established by the Criminal Code of Canada. Its purpose is to make decisions and orders concerning the liberty of individuals whom the courts have found to be not criminally responsible for acts committed while they were suffering from a mental disorder, or whose mental disorder makes them unfit to stand trial on criminal charges.
The Chair of the Review Board must be either a judge or a person qualified to be a judge. At least one member of the Review Board must be qualified to practice psychiatry. The Review Board also customarily includes “other” members whose qualifications are unspecified, typically (in BC) individuals with experience in mental health, medicine, psychology, social work or criminology.
The Review Board normally conducts three hearings per day. Standard hearings take 2 hours to complete. Hearings are normally held in person, and are recorded. The Board sometimes receives evidence by telephone where this can be done fairly. Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code also allows hearings to be held by videoconference. In non-contentious cases, the Board may at times conduct “paper hearings”. Such hearings proceed in the absence of the parties, with their consent, where the Board is satisfied the interests of justice do not require the presence of the accused and that it has the evidence necessary to make an order. Such a process presumes that a new order which is identical to that being reviewed will result.
Parties to the BC Review Board Hearing
The Criminal Code of Canada says who is entitled to participate in a review board hearing as a “party”. The Youth Criminal Justice Act also includes provisions about the party status of the parents and guardians of a young person. The parties to a review board hearing usually include:
- the accused,
- the person in charge of the hospital where the accused is detained or is to attend pursuant to an assessment order or a disposition,
- an Attorney General designated by the court or Review Board, or
- any interested person designated by the court or Review Board under the Criminal Code (which authorizes the review board to grant party status to a person who has a “substantial interest in protecting the interests of the accused” if the review board is of the opinion that it is just to do so).
An Accused’s Right to Legal Counsel
An accused has the right to be represented by counsel (a lawyer). Under the Criminal Code, the review board may assign counsel if required in the interests of justice. Where necessary, the Legal Services Society is authorized to provide counsel either through the Mental Health Law Program of the Community Legal Assistance Society or from the outside bar.
The BC Review Board and Victim Impact Statements
A victim is a person who has suffered harm, including physical or emotional loss, as a result of an offence.
The rights of victims, in cases involving mentally disordered accused persons under the jurisdiction of the BC Review Board, are described in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code. When an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the BCRB must consider a Victim Impact Statement to the extent that it is relevant to making an appropriate disposition.
Victims may submit a Victim Impact Statement at any time. The decision to file a Victim Impact Statement is voluntary. Once the victim has provided an initial statement, there is no requirement to provide another one. The Victim Impact Statement becomes part of the Review Board’s record and it is considered each time the Review Board holds a hearing for the accused. The victim may request notice of Board hearings and of the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code relating to Victim Impact Statements at hearings.
There is also a dedicated Crown Counsel office that deals with all Review Board matters: 604-775-1119.