The man behind a high-speed chase, carjacking and crash at a Lower Sackville convenience store has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.
A judge made that ruling in Dartmouth provincial court on Tuesday, after a forensic psychiatrist testified that David Farrell was suffering from mental illness at the time of the Jan. 31 crime spree.
According to an agreed statement of facts between the Crown and defence, Farrell led police in a chase down the wrong direction of Highway 101 in his own car, causing a number of collisions and several vehicles to veer off the road.
When Farrell crashed his own car, he stole a pickup truck while armed with a machete, and took off toward Lower Sackville. He drove that truck, which crashed into a Circle K Store on Sackville Drive, seriously injuring a cashier and customer inside.
The statement says that Farrell did not appear to hit the brakes before the crash, and “continued to speak to himself when he was in the back of the police vehicle, appearing to be hearing voices that were not present.”
Dr. Scott Theriault, who completed an evaluation of Farrell at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, told a judge that the voices Farrell heard in his head had threatened his and his family’s safety. While Farrell was aware of some of his actions on Jan. 31 — that he was, for example, driving in the wrong direction on the road — he thought those actions would protect his loved ones.
Theriault said Farrell started exhibiting symptoms of psychotic illness in fall of 2018, leading him to recommend an NCR (Not Criminally Responsible) finding in court.
“It’s a test that has two parts. So the first part is that the person must have a mental disorder,” he told Global News. “The second part is, as a result of the mental disorder, the person is either unable to appreciate the nature and quality of their actions.”
“So that’s defined in law essentially as, did they know what they were doing, or did they know that their actions were wrongful?”
Farrell has been remanded to the East Coast Forensic Hospital, where he’s been receiving treatment since he was taken into custody. Theriault said his prognosis is “very good,” his symptoms are “much improved” with help from anti-psychotics, and he’s a “quiet, gentle man by nature.”
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Farrell’s mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, has previously told Global News that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with post-traumatic stress disorder. On Tuesday, she said Farrell cried when he learned his actions had caused injuries and wanted to give the impacted families “every possession he owned.”
“We’re very, very sorry for the victims,” she said. “If we could reverse it we would and so would David.”
She said communities need mental health supports for adults and their families, as it’s difficult to find professional help for a grown-up patient who has not demonstrated behaviours requiring immediate intervention. Farrell never threatened to harm himself or others, she explained, which means he would not likely have been a care priority.
It’s a situation aggravated by a fear of calling the police, she added, when unpredictable behaviour is in the mix.
Farrell faces 13 charges in relation to his actions on Jan. 31, down from 18 initially presented by the Crown. Those remaining include dangerous driving, assault with a weapon, flight from police, mischief to property, endangering life, and robbery.
The Criminal Code Review Board, which determines how people with mental illness are dealt with in the criminal justice system, now has 45 days to set a date for Farrell’s disposition.