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Forensic psychiatrist to continue testimony at Toronto van attack trial

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Nov 27th, 2020

A renowned forensic psychiatrist will continue his testimony Friday at the murder trial for the man who killed 10 people when he drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk.

CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial is covering the trial, follow his tweets below:


Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

The defence argues the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible (NCR) for his actions on April 23, 2018 due to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Dr. John Bradford said Thursday that Minassian doesn’t show signs of being psychotic and does not meet the “traditional” test to be found not criminally responsible (NCR) for his actions.

However, he said Minassian’s ASD likely led to ritualistic and obsessive behaviour and contributed to his problems with feeling empathy.

“The traditional condition that leads to an NCR finding on the basis of a mental disorder is some psychotic condition, most usually schizophrenia,” he said.

When asked why someone with high-functioning ASD would be considered for a not criminally responsible defence, Dr. Bradford gave two main potential reasons.

Firstly, he cited something called the theory of mind deficit, which affects a person’s ability to perceive the emotional states of others, and their own emotional states. This can lead to a lack of empathy and defects in moral reasoning, he testified.

Secondly, he added, people with ASD can become hyper-focused, exhibiting abnormally narrow interests, becoming fixated on certain issues that can affect their behaviour.

Dr. Bradford admitted he wasn’t an autism expert, but earlier told the court that through his research he’s learned that people living with ASD are rarely violent, saying they are “more likely to be victims than perpetrators (of violence).”


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