He needs help, not jail: mother

Rosie Mullaley
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Twenty-year-old with numerous mental disorders gets 3 1/2-year prison term

Justin Baxter Collins is led out of provincial court in St. John’s Friday after he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for starting two fires and trying to start two more in December of last year. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

He’s a 20-year-old who has the mental capacity of an eight-year-old.

His IQ is 67 — well below average — and he’s been diagnosed with a long list of mental disorders.

He’s been in and out of foster homes and group homes most of his life and has had his share of trouble with the law.

On Dec. 30, 2011, not long after he moved back home with his mother, Justin Baxter Collins snuck out and started two fires and tried to start two others.

On Friday, he was sentenced to

3 1/2 years in jail.

With 1.5 times credit given for the 218 days he’s spent in custody, it leaves two years and seven months left of his term.

Justin pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, two counts of attempted arson and one count of breaching probation.

After he was escorted out of court, his mother, Suzanne Collins, stood outside the courtroom sobbing.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said to reporters, wiping tears from her eyes with a tissue.

“He doesn’t belong in the (prison) system. He needs help.

“The (health) system failed him for years and years.”

She first noticed there was something wrong when her son was just 10 months old.

By age 2, her son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Shortly afterwards, he was placed in foster care and bounced from group home to group home for the next decade.

As a teenager, he was diagnosed with numerous other mental disorders, including oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, reactive attachment disorder and broad spectrum tourette syndrome, which causes vocal outbursts and facial tics.

“He doesn’t trust anyone because of the life he’s led,” his mother said.

Although he hasn’t always lived with her, Suzanne says she’s always been a part of her son’s life.

While she was glad to have him live with her again, things didn’t go well. She said it was because he no longer had the support that had been given to him as a youth, and had been promised by Eastern Health as an adult.

“He came to live with me and I guess he was just scared,” she said.

“I was trying to give him a bit of independence, but not for too long, because he always had two (home care workers) with him.”

It was because he didn’t have the supervision he needed that he broke the law, she said.

“We were promised everything when he came home to live with me again and we got nothing,” she said.

“Because of these things not being in place, he had more time to go off on his own and do the things he shouldn’t have been doing.”

On Dec. 30, 2011, Justin started a fire at 257 Canada Dr., not far from where he lived. He bought gas, poured it on the house and lit it with a wad of paper towels. The blaze damaged the siding.

He also set fire to a basement door at a house at 174 Frecker Dr. The blaze was minor and caused minimal damage to the siding.

Justin then went to New Moon Restaurant on Topsail Road, where he made a Molotov cocktail using a ketchup bottle and tried to ignite the gas tank behind the business.

He also tried to catch a shed on fire at 85 Bonavista St.

Suzanne said Justin returned home that day and told her what he did at the Canada Drive house.

She convinced him to call police and turn himself in, “because if he didn’t, I would’ve.”

When officers showed up, he confessed to the other three incidents, which surprised his mother.

She admits what he did was wrong, but said her son doesn’t belong in jail.

“I’m not excusing what he did or trying to minimize it, but I don’t think that he should have been given the sentence he was given,” she said.

With his mental issues, she thinks the priority should be to get her son psychiatric help.

“Anyone who spends 10 minutes with him can see he’s not fit (to stand trial),” she said. “He is mentally challenged and the system failed him miserably. …

“It is ridiculous. … He doesn’t need to be thrown in jail, and taken out of the province at that. It shouldn’t be allowed.”

In imposing a 3 1/2-year prison term, Judge Mike Madden went along with an agreed recommendation from Crown prosecutor Jason House and defence lawyer Jennifer Curran.

House pointed to the seriousness of arson, noting the erratic nature of fire puts people’s lives at risk. The randomness of the locations was also unsettling, he added.

House said there was also a degree of planning that went into the arsons, as Justin purchased gas and made a Molotov cocktail.

Curran pointed to the difficulties Justin has had in his life, his mental challenges, his young age and the remorse he’s shown.

She said she hopes a federal sentence will help him with rehabilitation.



Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Canada Drive, Jason House

Geographic location: Canada, Topsail Road

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Recent comments

  • Susan
    October 03, 2012 - 23:39

    I know Justin and was saddened when I saw the sentence he received. Prison will not help Justin, it will only expose him to hardened criminals which will have a very negative impact on him. Justin has no self-control nor does he think of the consequences of his actions, he needs supervision, plain and simple, incarceration will not help him. He has had a great deal of intervention throughout his life and nothing has helped. He needs supervision and when he finally leaves prison I hope that supervision will be provided ... otherwise there is a very good chance he will do this again.

  • Jack
    August 05, 2012 - 16:42

    I agree with most commenters as Justin Collins should not be in jail where he will not get help he truly needs, but should have been found "not criminally responsible" and sent to Waterford Hospital indefinitely. Because the Judge did a wrong thing in sending a developmentally disabled adult to jail instead of a Mental Health facility, I believe that he/she is prejudiced towards those with disabilities as they think that a criminal is a criminal, and its not as simple as that. Keep in mind that punishment doesn't work as it suppresses negative behaviour, but it doesn't eliminate it because you're not getting to the root of the problem. That's why Special Olympics coaches can only use punishment as a last resort. I think that the Newfoundland and Labrador Government needs a special court similar to Nova Scotia for criminal matters involving those with mental health, developmental, intellectual, and severely learning disabled individuals called a Mental Health Court.

  • Jack
    August 05, 2012 - 16:35

    Technically speaking, according to the American Association On Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, if an individual's Intelligence Quotient is below 70 and had two or more adaptive skill limitations before age 18, then you're considered to be intellectually disabled. Based on the two requirements, Justin Collins is considered not only developmentally disabled, but also intellectually disabled, meaning that the Newfoundland and Labrador Government did not follow proper procedures in dealing with them. Under Canadian Law, if someone with mental health, intellectual, developmental, or severe learning disabilities has committed a crime, then he/she is supposed to undergo a mental health and intellectual assessment to determine if he/she was criminally aware of their actions. In my opinion, Justin Collins should have been found "not criminally responsible" and sent to Waterford Hospital so he can get the help he truly needs to rehabilitate into society. Now that he's in jail, he won't get the proper supports in dealing with his criminal and mental health issues. However, this is not the first time that individuals with developmental or mental health disabilities have been imprisoned instead of getting proper help. Such cases include Archie Billard, a Burgeo teenager involved in an infamous 2004 Halifax joyriding accident that killed Theresa McAvoy, and Shawn Timmons, a Nova Scotian man with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome with a mental age of six whom kidnapped a four year old girl in 2001 near Sutherland's Lake, Nova Scotia. In the future, the Newfoundland and Labrador government should take a page out of Nova Scotia, and create a Mental Health Court where criminal matters involving those with developmental, intellectual, and mental health disabilities are heard and proper court order treatment is given instead of constantly relying on jail.

  • Shame
    August 05, 2012 - 15:10

    He was placed in foster care after he was diagnosed with ADHD? Why is mom so upset now? Where was her concern when he was a child?

    • sheila
      August 06, 2012 - 08:28

      This child was placed in the system at age 2 for an issue that hundreds if not thousands of parents face everyday in the Province. The bouncing around foster homes that increased his for example attachment disorder is real - his mother sent him away because he was hard to handle as a toddler. Many of the other manifestations may have developed anyway but I hope this mother spends the rest of her pathetic life wondering if she had been a real parent to the 2 yr old would the 20 yr old be better equipped mentally to lead his life. You were in his life you say Mom but you choose to be on the sidelines now you are trying to pass the blame. Shame on you Mom..look what you handing over a 2yr old to the system caused ... you walked away from your responsibility to your child and look at the results.

  • t
    August 05, 2012 - 10:32

    His mother says the "system" failed him. If she wants to blame someone, and his past for his behaviour, then maybe she should look at herself. She was his mother. Sounds to me like she failed him if he grew up in foster homes and group homes. I certainly don't know the whole story here, but whatever his mental condition, he sounds like he should be incarcerated someplace, whether jail or some other facility. If he needs constant supervision, at least he'll get that in jail, and won't be putting other people and their property at risk.

  • Jerome
    August 05, 2012 - 08:27

    My God, this isn't Texas. A certifiably sick young man is given prison time instead of treatment? How far have we drifted toward an Americanized system of justice?

    • KT
      August 06, 2012 - 09:49

      NO its not Texas if it was he would of recieved the help he needed, EVERY child under age 18 has health care, in Texas ...I know this because I have lived there

  • Not PC
    August 05, 2012 - 08:07

    Health care? Home care? Government got no interest in either of those. Oil and Muskrat Falls is all they care about. Dunderdale, Kennedy and Sullivan are just blow bags blowing off useless words everyday. Helping people is on the bottom of a list they don't even have yet. Shame to say that we have a bunch of well can't say that here but people know what I want to say. Bye PC gov..You are finished but said thing is you got are province ruined.So sad cause we had a lot going for us but brainless yahoos screwed that. Thanks

  • David
    August 04, 2012 - 19:43

    Being too dumb to function is one thing...being cunning, evil and smart enough to make and set off malatov cocktails is another. Public safety comes ahead of sympathy in this case. Get him off the streets and lock him up.

    • bern
      August 05, 2012 - 09:01

      Well said

  • tally
    August 04, 2012 - 18:28

    The mother said that he had 2 workers with him, which means he was already deemed by eastern health as being a danger to himself or others before this incident occured. I am surprised with his iq that he was fit to stand trial and that he understood the context of a court proceeding. Jail will not be good for him, but there is no where else in nl that deals with people with the most severe behavours/disabilities. What is needed is a treatment facility that houses and works with individuals with delays and behaviour issues...but i dont think the govt cares about that.

  • Jimmy
    August 04, 2012 - 14:58

    He would have gotten the support of his mother instead of dumping him in a failed gov program. shame on her

  • will to power
    August 04, 2012 - 13:29

    This young man doesn't belong in prison. If his mental capacity is so limited, he would be better served (and so would society) by receiving proper treatment within the health care system. The safety net didn't catch Justin. And isn't that what it's supposed to do?

  • John
    August 04, 2012 - 10:54

    This is a case where protection of the public is paramount. This guy could have potentially burned down houses with people in them being seriously injured or killed. Thank God nobody was hurt!!

  • JasonP
    August 04, 2012 - 10:45

    According to his mother; Suzanne Collins he doesn't belong in jail. What happens when he bruns someone to death?? Will he belong in jail then, Mrs Collins?