A Nova Scotia judge says a mentally ill man who killed his wife is entitled to the proceeds of her life insurance policy because he was found not criminally responsible for her death.
Justice Frank Edwards of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has ruled that Richard Dwayne Maidment, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than seven years ago, was not morally responsible for Sarabeth Forbes’s death in 2017 because of his mental illness.
Maidment “has been found to be not criminally responsible…. He is not a criminal,” the judge said in a decision issued this week.
Court heard that Maidment, also known as Richard McNeil, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2012 while he and Forbes were living in a home in Gardiner Mines, N.S., with their young son.
Maidment had to leave his job at Nova Scotia Power due to his condition, and was granted long-term disability benefits.
In July 2015, Forbes named Maidment as the primary beneficiary of her life insurance policy. The policy named their son as a contingent beneficiary, which meant he would receive the benefit if both of his parents died.
The policy named Forbes’s mother as trustee for the boy in the event he received any benefits before reaching the age of 25.
The judge’s decision says Maidment’s wife and family were unable to get medical help for him as his mental health rapidly deteriorated in 2017.
Court heard Maidment killed Forbes in their home on April 18, 2017, though no details were included in Edwards’ decision.
Maidment was charged with murder.
At the conclusion of his trial, which was also heard by Edwards, Maidment was declared not criminally responsible “on account of mental disorder” on Dec. 4, 2017. He was later confined to the East Coast Forensic Hospital in the Halifax area.
At the time, Edwards said Maidment could not be held responsible for what he had done because his mental disorder had rendered him incapable of appreciating the nature of his actions or knowing they were wrong.
The judge said it was “obvious to anybody who has listened to the evidence, and the testimony of the doctors, and the submissions of counsel” that a not criminally responsible defence was appropriate.
Earlier this year, Maidment’s mother applied to the court to have Maidment declared lawful beneficiary of the insurance policy.
However, Forbes’s mother applied her grandson’s behalf for the proceeds.
In his most recent decision, Edwards said there is a public policy rule that says criminals should not benefit from their crimes, but he said that rule does not apply in this case.
The judge, citing previous case law, concluded that a finding of not criminally responsible did not disqualify the 42-year-old man from receiving 100 per cent of the death benefit.
Citing a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Edwards said a person found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder is not to be punished and is instead to be treated with dignity and “afforded the utmost liberty compatible with his or her situation.”
“On April 18, 2017, both Sarabeth and Richard, as well as their families, tragically fell victim to Richard’s schizophrenia,” Edwards’ decision says.
“While the particular circumstances leading to Sarabeth’s death are fortunately uncommon, the inherent unpredictability, illness and loss are squarely what life insureds seek to guard their loved ones against by purchasing a life insurance policy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020.