N.S. family continues to fight for daughter with special needs after court appearance
A young Nova Scotia woman faced a judge Monday after breaching probation for an angry outburst she can’t control.
Now that her daughter’s day in court is over, Brenda Hardiman plans to continue pushing the Nova Scotia government to change its protocol around police intervention in situations like her daughter’s.
“I was kind of nervous. I didn’t know what the judge was going to say to me,” said Nichele Benn of her court appearance.
The 25-year-old, who lives in a facility under the care of Nova Scotia Community Services, has cognitive delays and was diagnosed with a brain disorder that results in aggressive outbursts.
Hardiman says protocol at the facility has changed, and care providers must call police when Benn has one of her episodes.
But she says her daughter shouldn’t be handcuffed or taken into custody for something she can’t control.
“This government puts its back to people who require help and it’s time that they turn around and take a good look at what’s happening before she’s in jail for an extended period of time.”
Benn is currently on probation for scratching a commissioner’s face at the facility. Yesterday, she had to tell a judge she breached that probation by slapping a resident who says she spit in her face three times.
“Some of them are just very hard to get along with,” says Benn. “It stresses me out.”
Family lawyer Jane O’Neill says there are two priorities in the case:
“Having Nichele moved to a home setting, perhaps an option home where she lived for quite a long time and thrived there,” says O’Neill. “The current institutional setting is not appropriate for Nichele. It has been engaging the criminal system.”
The family also hopes the Department of Justice and Community Services will change protocols around police intervention.
“If the protocol needs to be adjusted, then there needs to be questions amongst the various departments in regard to that,” says Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry. “That is a broad question that can’t be answered here at the moment.”
Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse says a lot of work has to be done behind the scenes before reporting back to the family.
“I think one of the problems is that there’s a lot of misinformation that takes place in these cases,” she says.
Benn’s family is thankful the breach doesn’t mean jail time, and as they continue to push for change, she has a wish too.
“I want to be in a home that is loving.”
Benn is due back in court for another update in June.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster