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Psychiatric evaluation extended for man accused of crashing bus into Quebec daycare

A woman lights a candle during a vigil at a church near the site of a daycare centre where two children lost their lives after a city bus crashed into the building in Laval, Que, Thursday, February 9, 2023. A Quebec man accused of killing two young children by driving a city bus into a Montreal-area daycare will remain detained in a psychiatric institution for another 30 days. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

LAVAL, Que. — A court heard Tuesday that a Montreal psychiatric hospital needs more time to evaluate a bus driver's mental state at the time he allegedly drove a bus into a daycare, killing two young children.

The Philippe-Pinel institute has been charged with assessing the criminal responsibility of Pierre Ny St-Amand, 51, on Feb. 8, the day of the killings. However, in a letter addressed to the court, the hospital said that due to the complexity of the file, it needs another 30 days to complete the assessment.

"Given the nature of the offence and the complexity of the clinical picture, additional evaluations were requested, in particular a psychological evaluation, which unfortunately could not be completed in time for the upcoming hearing date," Dr. Kim Bédard-Charette, a forensic psychiatrist, wrote in the letter. She noted Mr. St-Amand's "exemplary co-operation." 

Prosecutor Karine Dalphond told reporters after a brief hearing at the Laval, Que., courthouse that she doesn't know whether the inability to complete the evaluation was related solely to the specifics of St-Amand's case, or whether other factors, such as delays caused by a shortage of specialized staff, may have played a role.

St-Amand was judged fit to stand trial on Feb. 24 after an initial psychiatric evaluation, but an evaluation of his mental state at the time of the alleged offences was ordered at the request of the defence.

"It's a criminal responsibility evaluation. Basically, if we summarize it simply, it's to see if, at the time of the events, this gentleman was able to differentiate between right and wrong," Dalphond said Tuesday.

Accompanied by four corrections officers and a courthouse security guard, St-Amand showed little emotion as he stood in the prisoner’s box. His hands cuffed in front of him, he looked mainly at a screen in front of the box, where his lawyer appeared by videoconference.

There was no opposition to the hospital's request for more time.

A bus driver with the Laval transit corporation, St-Amand was arrested after a city bus turned down the driveway of a daycare in the city's Ste-Rose neighbourhood and plowed into the front of the building as parents were dropping off children.

Maëva David and Jacob Gauthier, both four years old, were killed in the crash, which injured six other children.

St-Amand is charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as seven other charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.

He has been detained at the Philippe-Pinel institute since Feb. 23 and will remain there at least until his next court appearance on April 26.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press