N.L. Court Defends Political Dissent in Case of Man Hospitalized Involuntarily

The Canadian Press, April 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

N.L. Court Defends Political Dissent in Case of Man Hospitalized Involuntarily


N.L. appeal court defends political dissent

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has issued a ringing defence of political dissent, in the case of a man held involuntarily at a psychiatric hospital after he sent a series of angry tweets about a police shooting.

Andrew Abbass was detained and taken to the psychiatric unit at Western Memorial Hospital in Corner Brook, N.L., on April 7, 2015, two days after the fatal shooting of Don Dunphy in Mitchells Brook, N.L.

Abbass had expressed anger about the death on social media, prompting Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers to go to his home. They took him to hospital, where two physicians "completed the necessary paperwork that resulted in his involuntary admission," according to a new appeal court decision.

Abbass, who has since been released, challenged his detention in provincial Supreme Court, claiming he was not suffering from a mental disorder and that the doctors' certificates of involuntary admission did not cite grounds for his detention. But the judge declined jurisdiction, and dismissed his application.

The appeal court said the lower-court judge should not have declined jurisdiction.

"Mr. Abbass felt that what the police and physicians did was without proper authority. He sought the vindication of having a Supreme Court judge affirm this," said the three-judge court, which included Justice Malcolm Rowe, who has since joined the Supreme Court of Canada.

"The courts must always be there for the vindication of the citizen with what he or she views as the wrongful exercise of authority. Mr. Abbass was denied his day in court. He should have had it."

In its ruling, the appeal court said the first psychiatric assessment of Abbass took 19 minutes before a doctor certified a certificate of involuntary admission. The certificate noted the patient showed some signs "consistent with paranoia," and said he needed observation and assessment.

The second certificate was completed five minutes later, and noted Abbass had expressed anger about the shooting. …

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