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Magnotta trial: What is Not Criminally Responsible?

Luka Rocco Magnotta is taken by police from a Canadian military plane to a waiting van on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Mirabel, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

If Luka Magnotta is found “not criminally responsible” for the murder of Jun Lin, he could still be locked away for life.

Just not in a prison.


WATCH: Magnotta admits to killing Jun Lin, jury must decide if he was of sound mind. Domenic Fazioli reports

Canada’s new “not criminally responsible” (NCR) regime passed last summer. It applies to those who are found to have committed an act that constitutes an offence, but cannot appreciate or understand what they did was wrong due to a mental disorder at the time.

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Magnotta’s lawyer argued in court Monday that his client is schizophrenic and was not criminally responsible when he killed Lin, a Chinese student, in 2012.

READ MORE: Magnotta diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, 2005 doctor’s letter reveals

If a person is found NCR, they are referred to a provincial review board.

The board can make one of three determinations: an absolute discharge, if the person is not deemed a public safety threat; a conditional discharge; or a detention in secure psychiatric facility or hospital run by the province.

The law now makes public safety paramount to the decision-making process.

It also creates a new “high-risk” designation – if a person has committed a “serious personal injury,” is likely to commit further violence, or the acts were of such “brutal nature” as to indicate a grave risk to the public.

High-risk NCR people would not get conditional or absolute discharges. They would not be allowed to go out into the community unescorted and escorted passes would only be allowed for medical reasons.

Most significant, they could not be released until the high-risk designation was revoked by a court.

Furthermore, their cases could be up for review only every three years – not annually.

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And if the NCR person were ever released, victims would be notified upon request.

Magnotta could end up serving more time in a provincial facility if he is found high-risk NCR.

If Magnotta were convicted of first-degree murder, for instance, he would likely not be up for parole until he served 25 years of his sentence. If convicted of second-degree murder – which would mean he didn’t plan the killing – he would not be eligible until serving between 10 and 25 years.

Critics of the new NCR regime have argued that those who suffer from mental illness will have fewer incentives to plead NCR and may wind up in regular prisons – thus crowding the system with mentally ill inmates.

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