By Michael Potestio
The family of Brian Watson, a Shuswap man run down and killed while riding his motorcycle near Chase three years ago, is angry after learning the man who struck Watson with his truck has been released from custody without any court-imposed conditions.
Raymond Edward Swann, 58, has been granted an absolute discharge by the B.C. Review Board following a psychiatric assessment to determine his risk to re-offend.
In February, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley ruled Swann could not be held criminally responsible for killing Watson due to a mental disorder.
Watson, 60, was killed while riding on Squilax-Anglemont Road on April 3, 2016.
“I am speechless at this point,” Watson’s wife, Ila Watson, told KTW in an email regarding the B.C. Review Board’s decision. “We have had to go through hell the past three years being hopeful justice would prevail.”
In April, Dley ordered Swann to undergo a risk assessment before receiving a disposition from the B.C. Review Board.
The review board rendered its decision on June 28, stating it had concerns and was left with unanswered questions — noting it was still a mystery whether Swann intended to collide with Watson, believing he was a threat, or whether in his confused state he simply didn’t see him on the road.
The fact no neuropsychological testing was done to rule out or confirm a cognitive disorder, the rarity of someone having a rapid onset of symptoms at Swann’s age and the randomness of the incident were noted concerns.
“It was of particular concern that Mr. Swann acted out against a seemingly random target so soon after the onset of his psychosis; there is no evidence that the victim was an identified target,” reads the board’s reasons for disposition.
The Crown stressed that without definitive evidence of Swann’s intentions, the review board can have no confidence it won’t happen again.
In making its decision, the board relied on the testimony of a Dr. Sunette Lessing — a court-appointed psychiatrist who was also one of four experts who testified during the trial.
Lessing was of the opinion Swann posed a low risk to re-offend in a violent manner, telling the board Swann’s symptoms were in remission, he was compliant with treatment and he hasn’t experienced any issues since he was released from hospital after the April 2016 collision.
Swann was also found not to have current or historical issues that would predispose him to act in a violent manner.
“The case law is clear, where the only evidence before the board is that there is no significant threat, there must be an absolute discharge,” stated the board’s disposition.
At trial, court heard Swann and his wife were visiting a friend when Swann abruptly left, driving away from the home in an erratic manner.
He stopped his truck in the middle of a road at one point and threw his cellphone, along with his wife’s cellphone, into the bush, saying people were tracking them. He raced away in his truck and his wife tried to follow in her car, but couldn’t keep up.
At about 2 p.m. she came across a motorcycle and helmet on a lawn and saw Swann and his damaged truck parked at a nearby supermarket.
His wife told Swann he had been involved in a collision and Swann asked if she had seen “the blue van and the men with guns.” He drove off again, later phoning police from a friend’s house and telling them he had run somebody down.
In interviews following the incident, Swann said he felt strange and afraid that he was going to be killed.
During trial, the Crown argued Swann’s confused state of mind was caused by the sleep deprivation, heavy drug use and drug withdrawal he had been experiencing, as opposed to a disease of the mind.
Psychiatrists who examined Swann agreed he was not in his usual mental state, but disagreed on the cause.
Swann was initially charged with second-degree murder in connection with Watson’s death, but that charge was later reduced to criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
Prior to the B.C. Review Board’s decision, Swann was under a condition prohibiting him from operating a motor vehicle.
“Having granted Mr. Swann an absolute discharge, the board is unable to make any further order concerning his drivers licence,” the board’s disposition reads. “Our hope is the Crown will take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr. Swann’s driving privileges are appropriately reviewed.”