No charge has been laid in Monday morning's homicide in Kelowna's Lower Mission, and the sole suspect remains unbound by any court conditions. Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance calls the situation “concerning,” and points to larger issues with Canada's criminal justice system.
Police responded to a 911 call at 661 Bechard Road just before 7 a.m. Monday morning, to find a deceased man. A 54-year-old woman was arrested at the scene, but she was released without charge the next day.
She was then taken into custody under the Mental Health Act, and transported to Kelowna General Hospital, but Supt. Triance would not provide details about that incident.
While it's not clear if the woman remains at KGH, Supt. Triance said during a press conference Thursday the suspect is “not bound by any conditions right now through the courts and is free and able to be present in our society.”
The head of the Kelowna RCMP, who's been in the position since August 2020, says the BC Prosecution Service chose not to lay the police's recommended charge of first-degree murder on Monday, opting instead to wait for the conclusion of the RCMP's full investigation.
“[Officers] prepared a detailed package for charge assessment with the evidence before them which was presented to the BC Prosecution Service for charge approval,” said Supt Kara Triance. “Charges have not been approved to date.”
The full investigation is expected to be in the hands of the Crown within three weeks.
“My police officers are working around the clock right to now to bring what we would call a disclosure package to the BC Prosecution Service,” Supt. Triance said.
“That takes a full team of investigators putting everything else aside for up to three weeks to complete in a case like this. I find that concerning, absolutely, because there are no conditions imposed on this individual. And yet I understand that my partners at the BC Prosecution Service are acting within the directives of their policies.”
Supt. Triance said she has some concerns about the suspect walking free for now.
“I have full confidence in my officers to work with our partner agencies to ensure safety plans are in place, however, there is always a concern to me when we are not able to incarcerate somebody for murder,” she said.
“I believe that we are at a point in our community and our society where we're at a precipice. We have had a lot of decisions that have affected why our BC Prosecution Service has come to their decision.”
She noted the problems with dealing with people with mental health issues through a criminal justice approach, but said the appropriate systems are not available.
“If we talk about the incarceration of [people with] complex social issues, it's not the answer. In the absence of a healthcare facility or an incarceration facility – a remand centre – police are left in this catch-and-release cycle where we are dealing with people in the society and we do not have the systems before us to address these matters,” she said.
“It's the job of the police to ensure safety in our communities and when my officers are responding to these calls for service, I have grave concerns about the limitations of our systems and the policies and directives which we must operate within.
“As police officers, this is a very frustrating situation to be in, as we look at the two systems that we must operate between, and increasingly deal with people at large in our society who have complex and concurrent mental health or criminal matters that are affecting the way that we can keep our community safe.”
Supt. Triance said Monday's incident was a case of “intimate partner violence,” and the victim and suspect were the only two people living at the residence.
She added that she “absolutely” believes the Crown will approve a murder charge in the case once police complete the full investigation.