Bandura declared not criminally responsible

Mental illness drove John Bandura to assault Kamloops Bishop David Monroe and kept him from knowing his actions were morally wrong, a provincial judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Sheri Donegan said she has no doubt that Bandura, 31, did not understand what he was doing was wrong when he attacked Monroe, 69, in the rectory of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Oct. 22, 2010.

The evidence - including Bandura's statements to police and the testimony of experts who later examined him - all prove the man was in the grips of a severe delusional disorder at the time and as a result he cannot be held criminally responsible, the judge said.

It was an expected end to the case, as lawyers for both the defence and Crown submitted such a result was appropriate at a hearing last week.

Bandura's disposition will now be turned over to B.C.'s Review Board, which will ultimately decide whether the man must remain in psychiatric custody or if he can be released on conditions. The board, comprised of mental health and legal experts, must convene its own hearing within 45 days.

Crown lawyer Stephen Lawhead said he believes justice is well served by the result, suggesting the assault and ensuing aftermath was traumatic for everyone.

Defence lawyer Michelle Stanford said her client is satisfied with the result.

"He has been extremely remorseful through all this, it has been a really difficult time for him and his family," she said. "It will take a long time to heal and recover all of this."

Stanford said Bandura has been doing much better recently and has made remarkable progress in his recovery.

"He's compliant with all his medications. He is definitely a different person than he was the night of Oct. 22," she said.

Stanford said she has no way of knowing what the review board will do, saying Bandura could be in custody for a short time or for years.

"Depending on the evidence, there will be an opportunity for him to be discharged conditionally into the community," she said.

In her ruling, Judge Donegan outlined the circumstances of the incident and the evidence showing Bandura had no ability to comprehend what he was doing was wrong.

Bandura believed he had been ordered by God to drink the blood of a holy man in order to alleviate his depression and get himself off medication.

Bandura told police, in fact, that he stabbed the bishop in the throat with a pen and drank the man's blood. The evidence, however, showed that never happened, the judge concluded.

"His delusions led him to seriously assault a stranger. Mr. Bandura was, at the time, incapable of knowing is act was morally wrong," the judge said. "The evidence is overwhelming."

Bandura has no criminal record and no history of violence before this incident. He started showing signs of mental illness in 2005 and was twice hospitalized before the attack.

In the days before the assault, Bandura's family twice tried to have him admitted to hospitals but psychiatrists refused, saying they did not believe he needed to be committed.

Bandura's family brought him to Kamloops, where he had been admitted once before. At Royal Inland Hospital, Bandura smashed his way through a window and fled the hospital. He had not yet been admitted and could have exited through a number of doors.

Less than an hour later, Bandura attacked Monroe. He then swam the South Thompson River and was found by police, soaking wet and bloody, huddled in a shed.

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