Case illustrates the inadequacy of mental health services in Canada and the lack of flexibility courts now face because of mandatory sentencing laws.
Ottawa (19 Jan. 2011) - A mentally ill man caught with an "arsenal" of weapons has been sentenced to four years in prison, highlighting both the inadequacy of mental health services in Canada and the problems posed by the Harper government's new mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
In reluctantly imposing the sentence on Saif Cathum in an Ottawa court his week, Judge Hugh Fraser said the man was "in need of further psychiatric treatment" but the court had little alternative under new federal sentencing laws.
"We're dealing with certain mandatory minimums that are at play here," the judge told Cathum. The sentence was agreed to in advance by lawyers for the defence and the Crown.
Cathum was arrested for possessing four improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a modified Ruger .22 handgun and other weapons and ammunition. Court documents said he had been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses including depression and schizoaffective disorder.
The judge heard testimony that Cathum had grown up in abusive household and began showing symptoms of mental illness several years ago after graduating from college and losing a friend, who died as a result of a stabbing.
The case illustrates the lack of flexibility the courts now have in dealing with cases involving weapons. It also underlines the gap of mental health services that is resulting in increasing numbers of mentally ill individuals being sentenced to prison in Canada.
Cathum was given credit for 163 days spent in pre-trial custody.
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