Man’s release from jail could hinge on housing

Rosie Mullaley
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Judge to decide next week whether to release 22-year-old man with mental health, addiction issues

A man with a history of mental illness who chased his father and stepmother with a chainsaw could be getting out of jail next week.

aylor Mitchell is led out of provincial court in St. John’s during a break in proceedings of his sentencing hearing Friday at provincial court in St. John’s. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

But only if he can find somewhere to live.

During the sentencing hearing for Taylor Mitchell Friday afternoon in provincial court in St. John’s, his lawyer requested that her client be given time served, with a year’s probation.

However, Judge Jim Walsh expressed concern with releasing Mitchell into the community if he has no set address.

Defence lawyer Joan Dawson took issue with that.

“When he’s released, he will essentially be homeless,” Dawson said.

“I’ve represented many people in this same situation — people with very complex mental issues who have no place to live (after being in custody) — and I don’t think they should be penalized because they’re homeless.”

Walsh said he understood her position, but added, “My duty is to protect the public.”

The judge also noted that it would be best that Mitchell have support wherever he lives, as it’s important to ensure he takes his medication.

Dawson said she will try to help him find a place to live, but said it will be difficult given that his source of income — social assistance — was stopped when he was incarcerated.

It’s expected Dawson will have more to say on that issue when the case is called again Thursday. Walsh is expected to render his decision on sentencing at that time.

Mitchell was taken into custody Jan. 14 after he tried to attack the couple at his grandparents’ house on Thorburn Road.

He chased the couple while they were in their car in the driveway. He revved the chainsaw as he got closer while yelling, “I’m going to f--king kill you.”

Mitchell eventually put the chainsaw back in the shed, but when his father got out of the car, Mitchell punched him. His father blocked the blows with his arm.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon, uttering threats, assault and breaching court orders.

The 22-year-old also pleaded guilty to causing a disturbance at the Waterford Hospital clinic in October 2013, when he stormed into a doctor’s office and demanded medication.

“If I don’t get my drugs, I won’t be responsible for what I do,” Mitchell had said. Staff said he was angry and agitated.

Crown prosecutor Mike Murray asked the judge to give Mitchell a six- to eight-month jail term, with 18 months’ probation, pointing to the seriousness of the offences. He also pointed out that Mitchell has a long history with non-compliance with court orders and taking his medication.

Defence lawyer Joan Dawson suggested time served with a year’s probation.

She said Mitchell — who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder — is “a young man with complex mental health issues,” as well as addictions.

She said between the ages of 17 and 21, he was admitted to a psychiatric unit eight times — seven of them at the Waterford Hospital.

Dawson said Mitchell had no criminal record before these incidents and got in trouble six days after he was released from hospital.

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Waterford Hospital

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