More than five years after Rohinie Bisesar fatally stabbed a stranger in an unprovoked attack inside a Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto’s underground PATH system, counsel for the Crown and a lawyer for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) are recommending a detention order remain in place for Bisesar, who was found not criminally responsible (NCR) due to a mental disorder in 2018.
At an annual Ontario Review Board (ORB) hearing held virtually on Wednesday from CAMH where Bisesar is institutionalized, Michele Warner, a lawyer for CAMH, told the five-person ORB panel that while Bisesar has had another very positive year transitioning from a secure forensic unit to a general unit within the mental health hospital, the detention order needs to remain in place to both further the 46-year-old’s rehabilitation and to protect the public.
Bisesar killed 28-year-old Rosemarie “Kim” Junor, an ultrasound technician and newlywed, in December 2015. The two were complete strangers. Junor’s parents also attended Wednesday’s hearing.
Dr. Georgia Walton, Bisesar’s forensic psychiatrist, described her as an exemplary patient who gets along well with her clinical team and other clients, uses the treadmill on her unit to stay in shape and has furthered her education and has started applying for jobs in the financial sector, even throughout the pandemic.
Despite the update, Warner and Walton expressed concerns about her ability to live in the community without constant supervision and the hospital’s ability to control where she’s housed.
Walton told the panel if Bisesar were granted a conditional discharge, which would allow her to live in unsupervised housing of her choice, she would be worried about what would happen if Bisesar were recognized in the community given the high-profile nature of the case.
“Is that really the main concern that the team feels it needs to keep her on a detention order, really just for the purpose that she transitions into supervised housing?” Walton was asked.
“I think there is a secondary issue regarding the ability to readmit her if she had fast deterioration. She’s been in a facility for five years. There is a risk in the deterioration of her mental health on her first discharge into the community,” she replied.
The psychiatrist told the review board panel that “under a detention order, we would be able to intervene sooner to ensure the safety of the public.”
The panel heard Bisesar, who has schizophrenia, takes two antipsychotic medications given by injections every four weeks and a daily antipsychotic oral tablet. Her doctor said provided she is on injectables, Bisesar is a low risk to re-offend.
“I would say she is a low risk if she continues to consent to take her medication, however, there is a risk she could deteriorate if exposed to stressors,” said Walton.
She agreed Bisesar is able to live independently, but added she worried more about how stressors, including the ability to get a job and public recognition, could affect her mental health.
Crown counsel Michael Feindel told the panel they need to be mindful of the high-profile nature of this case.
“If things unravel or some kind of encounter puts Ms. Bisesar in a stressed or panicked state, there is a package in place to address that rapidly,” said Feindel.
In Bisesar’s 2020 review board hearing, the panel heard Bisesar was approached by unknown persons on the street, which could affect her mental state.
Walton testified Bisesar continues to demonstrate insight into the symptoms of her major mental illness, her insight into the offence, knowing it was a traumatic thing she did, and is aware of the need for psychotropic medication. She said it is something Bisesar will need to deal with her symptoms throughout her life.
“The need for supervision is to provide … psychosocial support, to prevent isolation, to help her deal with stressors, as well as to provide information to the outpatient team,” said Walton.
She explained that due to COVID-19, there have been significant limitations on our ability to start this in the hospital because a lot of activities are only happening virtually and only limited passes into the community are being granted.
“For Ms. Bisesar, I think there still is a real risk of reoffence. The likelihood is less than other clients, but it’s still a risk and the severity if she reoffends is still very high,” cautioned Walton.
She went on to explain in the past when Bisesar was admitted to the hospital, she didn’t follow up with her treatment and has a history of medication non-compliance.
Walton suggested Bisesar would be best suited to live in supervised housing either on the grounds of CAMH or in the vicinity of the hospital and said while two beds are currently available, because of high demand there are multiple people waiting for these beds.
“It’s possible she wouldn’t be accepted to either of those two locations,” she said.
Marcus Bornfreund, Bisesar’s lawyer, told the panel that the notoriety of the case should not be continued punishment for his client.
“It’s not Ms. Bisesar’s fault and I don’t think it’s fair for us to predict a glass-half-full situation where she will be sought out and hounded, really, that’s the only risk that’s been presented to the panel today,” said Bornfreund.
He suggested a conditional discharge is appropriate given some level of supervision is in place and said if Bisesar continues taking her injectable medication, her risk of offence is low.
ORB officials said they will release its decision in the next few days with their reasons to follow. A panellist ended the meeting telling Bisesar directly that she’s on the right path of the rehabilitation goals and wished her the best of luck. He also thanked Junor’s family for attending.