News release

Review Recommends Not Using GPS to Track Patients

Government has decided not to use tracking technology for forensic mental health patients after three reports have raised multiple concerns about it.

After a homicide in April 2012, allegedly by a patient of the East Coast Forensic Hospital while absent without leave, government requested evidence be gathered to decide whether to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for patients on community passes.

The Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation produced one report using evidence on the effectiveness of GPS monitoring for mental health forensic rehabilitation patients, and another from interviews from Australia and the United Kingdom where electronic monitoring programs have been used. The Dalhousie University Health Law Institute analyzed potential legal issues.

"It's our conclusion that the use of electronic monitoring in this context would be unlikely to withstand legal challenge," said Constance MacIntosh, director, Dalhousie Health Law Institute. "This conclusion is based on our review of the Criminal Code, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as recent changes at the East Coast Forensic Hospital."

"Ensuring public safety while supporting patients' treatment and rehabilitation is extremely important. It's a delicate balance," said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine. "There are potential legal issues, increased stigma for mental health patients and added cost with the technology.

"I'm not willing to change our practice or impose something that goes against clinical advice in light of the legal issues involved."

While there is some evidence the technology can decrease violations during leaves, there is little that shows a link between patients who violate leaves and violence, which would mean using it would likely violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

No North American jurisdiction uses GPS technology on forensic patients.

Capital Health and the Department of Health and Wellness also conducted a review after the 2012 event with 18 recommendations. All have been implemented. East Coast Forensic Hospital staff say the implemented changes have reduced absence incidents and improved rehabilitation.

Recent changes to the federal Criminal Code have also created a class of high-risk accused, which includes those who show a substantial risk of using violence. People in this group are no longer eligible for unescorted leaves in the community.

The reports are available at novascotia.ca/dhw/ .

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Government has decided not to use tracking technology for forensic mental health patients after three reports raised multiple concerns about it.

After a homicide in April 2012, allegedly by a patient of the East Coast Forensic Hospital while absent without leave, government requested evidence be gathered to decide whether to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for patients on community passes.

The reports say using the technology will likely violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, and the Human Rights Act because there is little evidence linking absent without leave patients and violence.

No North American jurisdiction uses GPS technology on forensic patients.

Recent changes to the federal Criminal Code have also created a class of high-risk accused, which includes those who show a substantial risk of violence.

People in this group are no longer eligible for unescorted leaves in the community.

The reports are available at nova scotia dot c-a slash d-h-w.

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Media Contact:

Tony Kiritsis
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