Bus driver who crashed into Laval, Que., daycare found fit to stand trial
Pierre Ny St-Amand, the bus driver accused of intentionally ramming a Laval daycare with a city bus, killing two children, is fit to stand trial, but he will be evaluated to determine if he can be held criminally responsible for his actions.
St-Amand appeared in a Laval courtroom on Friday, accompanied by four special constables. His hair was trimmed and his eyes were open, in stark comparison to his last appearance, when he appeared delirious and dishevelled.
A psychiatric evaluation ordered last week to determine whether he was fit to stand trial concluded he was fit and able to understand the judicial process.
"Today, we received the report and for us and for the Crown it was clear he was fit," said Julien Lespérance Hudon, St-Amand's lawyer. "Initially, as we saw, he had difficulty communicating and responding to questions. Today, in the courtroom, he was much more present and able to understand what was going on."
But Lespérance Hudon asked the judge to order a different evaluation, this one to determine whether St-Amand can be held criminally responsible for his actions.
The evaluation will take place over the next 30 days at the Philippe-Pinel psychiatric hospital in Montreal. Professionals will determine whether St-Amand was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the crash that made him incapable of understanding what he was doing or of knowing that it was wrong.
Lespérance Hudon said some of the evidence led him to believe that St-Amand was not in his right mind on the morning of Feb. 8 that prevented him from determining right from wrong.
He is next scheduled in court on March 28.
On that date, when the report on his criminal responsibility is submitted, the Crown and the defence may request additional expertise or evaluations.
Ultimately, it will be up to the court to decide whether St-Amand is not criminally responsible.
If someone is found not criminally responsible, they are placed under the care of a review board who supervises them as they receive treatment, often in a psychiatric hospital.
On Feb. 8, St-Amand, a Laval transit bus driver, was at the wheel of a bus that plowed into the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose at around 8:30 a.m., just as parents were dropping off their children.
Two young children, Jacob Gauthier and Maëva David, died in the crash and six others were injured.
St-Amand is facing two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.
Last week, when St-Amand appeared in court, there were four special constables accompanying him — an unusually high level of security for a prisoner. Two of them held his arms in the prisoner's box as he stared ahead with a blank expression on his face.
At the time, Lespérance Hudon told the court that his client was only sometimes able to respond to questions and interact. Other times he was completely non-communicative, as he was in the courtroom last Friday, the lawyer said.
The psychiatric evaluation, which was conducted by professionals at the Philippe-Pinel psychiatric hospital in Montreal, was to determine whether St-Amand's mental state allowed him to understand what was happening at his trial. They decided that he was able to so.
The new evaluation will focus on his mental state on the morning of the crash and whether he was able to understand his actions and know right from wrong.