Man Found Not Criminally Responsible for Killing Police Officer Has Been Released

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A man who was found not criminally responsible for killing a Toronto police officer in 2011 by running him over with a stolen snow plow has been released from a psychiatric hospital and is living in Durham Region.

What Happened?

In winter 2011, Richard Kachkar was in the midst of a psychotic breakdown and behaving erratically when he stole a snow plow, barefoot and without a jacket on. After an hour of driving around Toronto, he was apprehended by Sergeant Ryan Russell, and ran him over with the plow as the Sergeant tried to stop him, killing the officer.

At trial, Kachkar’s defense lawyers conceded that he had killed Russell, but argued that Kachkar was not legally blameworthy (i.e.- culpable) because he had been influenced by a mental disorder.

The Crown (i.e- prosecution) acknowledged that it was more likely than not that Kachkar had been suffering from a mental disorder, but argued that it was not serious enough to meet the threshold of “not criminally responsible”. Instead, the prosecutor suggested that Kachkar had been influenced by his anger and frustration by the direction his life had taken.

In 2013, after a seven-week trial, a jury found Kachkar not criminally responsible for the crime and he was sent to the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby.

Not Criminally Responsible

Currently, s. 16 of the Criminal Code recognizes the defense of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, referred to more often as NCR.

The NCR defense depends on the answer to two fundamental questions:

  • Did the accused have a mental disorder at the time the act was committed?
  • Did the mental illness render the accused either a) incapable of appreciating the nature of the act or b) incapable of understanding that the act was wrong.

In order for a jury or judge to deliver an NCR verdict, they must answer yes to the first question and to at least one of the two options in the second question.

During an NCR trial, it is up to the person who wants to rely on the NCR defense to prove that the accused is not criminally responsible- in this case, Kachkar’s lawyers. The standard of proof is a “balance of probabilities” (i.e.- more likely than not).

An NCR verdict is not a guilty verdict, but it is also not an acquittal. Rather, it recognizes that a person who did not have the mental capacity to have a criminal intent cannot be found guilty. An accused who is found to be NCR is treated as a patient, not a criminal, and are remanded to a mental health institution of hospital. The intention is not to punish them, but to rehabilitate and mitigate their future risk to the public. Eventually the goal is to slowly reintegrate the individual into the community.

If you or someone you know has become involved in the criminal process, or have questions about your rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP. We provide skilled criminal defence, including for murder, manslaughter, and other serious offences. Located in in Oshawa, we serve clients throughout Ontario in the Durham Region, the Greater Toronto Area and points east. Call 905-404-1947 or contact us online.