Whitehorse Daily Star

Man suffering from memory issues, dementia

A Yukon man has been deemed unfit to stand trial, again.

By Pierre Chauvin on January 22, 2016

A Yukon man has been deemed unfit to stand trial, again.

Judge Peter Chisholm made the ruling Thursday regarding Titus Charlie.

People are found unfit to stand trial when they can’t understand what they are charged with or the possible consequences of a trial or a plea, or are unable to communicate with their lawyer.

Charlie was diagnosed with dementia, and was found unfit to stand trial back in 2008.

At the time, he had been charged with assault, causing a disturbance and failing to comply with a probation order.

A Yukon judge relying on a psychiatric assessment found him unfit to stand trial.

A similar assessment was used on Thursday.

Crown prosecutor Paul Battin told the judge Thursday that another prosecutor dropped the charges from the 2008 case on Sept. 22, 2013.

From that point on, Charlie was not under the care of the Yukon Review Board (YRB).

This indicates that he wasn’t forced to attend the 24-hour supervision group home he had been staying at.

Battin noted that from the Yukon Review Board documents, Charlie has “significant” dementia, which has worsened over time.

The dementia was caused by head trauma, substance abuse and perhaps overdose of prescription drugs, Battin noted, quoting from a 2013 report.

“I believe Titus Charlie will remain unfit to stand trial indefinitely,” the report read.

Charlie’s defence lawyer, Robert Dick, told the court he couldn’t get instructions from his client, as he is suffering from memory issues on top of his dementia.

Chisholm ordered Charlie to be detained at an hospital until the Yukon Review Board can meet to review his case.

That means he will head back to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, which was designated as a hospital for inmates with mental health issues.

Crown prosecutors have to constantly assess whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Essentially, this means if witnesses become unavailable after several years, the Crown has to drop the charges.

Because of this, Charlie could be back in the same situation – charged with a crime and awaiting to be declared unfit to stand trial – in a couple of years, Dick noted outside the courtroom.

And that’s a problem, Yukon NDP health critic Jan Stick says.

“There is a gap,” she said in an interview today.

The review board is the sole body that can order Charlie to stay in a supervised home.

Adult guardianship legislation allows for a similar process, but it is costly and complicated, and it has to come from a family member.

“But that doesn’t really address how we deal with people like Mr. Charlie,” she said, noting she has known him for a while.

Charlie shouldn’t be sitting in jail while he awaits for the review board to reconvene, she said.

“He doesn’t know why he is there,” she said.

“That criminalization is certainly a concern.”

Once Charlie wasn’t under the care of the review board, and he was put in a hotel by the Department of Health and Social Services.

“What was the use of him being by himself in an hotel?” Nils Clarke, executive director of the Yukon Legal Services Society, asked in an interview last week.

Clarke noted supported independent living is a “moving target” and costly, but has the potential to benefit the territory.

“If you can come up with a reasonable model, it’s always going to be cheaper to have persons not in custody, not at WCC,” he said.

Ultimately, a healthier community would reduce expenses in policing and court proceedings, he said.

In the end, it comes back to the territory not having a mental health strategy, Stick pointed out.

The government has issued reports on mental health in the territory, but a strategy would allow Yukoners to know what is currently available, and what the needs are, she said.

Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon told the Star the strategy will be released in a few months (see related story, p. 7).

“Yukoners do not have to be under an order of the YRB to receive supports, but a YRB order does require a client to adhere to a certain conditions aimed at keeping clients safe while reducing the risk to themselves and to the community,” said Pat Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

“Clients are often able to live safely within the community at the conclusion of a YRB order.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the Star the department cannot comment on the case for privacy reasons.

Asked if the department is looking into ways to prevent similar cases, department officials noted the review board was established under the Criminal Code – a federal responsibility – and couldn’t comment about possible legislative changes.

Comments (6)

Up 12 Down 2

Djst on Jan 25, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I also know Titus he is a very intelligent Vuntut Gwich'in from Old Crow but where is the support from that community? Jail is not the solution. His home community care is.

Up 30 Down 1

LCO on Jan 25, 2016 at 8:29 am

Titus needs 24/7 supervision. I agree with JC he is a nice man when sober. And I do believe that he needs support from his FN if not already. I hope he can get the support he needs to survive and hopefully he gets proper care and there are no more victims.

Up 39 Down 0

yukon56 on Jan 24, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Where is his community to support?

Up 26 Down 2

jc on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:18 pm

I've known Titus and his brother for many years. When they are off the substance they are two of the nicest guys I have known and no danger to anyone. However, their weakness gets them in trouble. I think Titus can be helped, but needs a better environment. Perhaps back in his home community under supervision. I really wish both well.

Up 52 Down 2

Adult group home, not 'free' pass on Jan 22, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Mentally disabled by dementia or not, you can't have somebody just walking around hurting people and give them a 'free' pass due to mental disorders. Put him in an adult group home and give him support and hold Social Services accountable. He is not capable of living independently if he has dementia....nor is he welcome in the public community if he is violent or a sexual predator. He needs help.

Up 43 Down 3

Politico on Jan 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm

It's amazing there's always money to stuff someone in jail but never the money to treat someone. The weird part is it's cheaper to help them than to incarcerate them. Political logic!

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