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Island man found not criminally responsible after SPCA official threatened with a gun

Suspect was arrested following 2021 altercation with SPCA officer at Comox Valley farm
A man arrested for an altercation with an SPCA officer involving a gun was deemed not criminally responsible in Courtenay Provincial Court on May 31. Record file pic

A man arrested last year for an altercation in which he used a gun to scare an SPCA investigator has been found not criminally responsible (NCR).

Uwe Manfred Froeschle had been facing charges but will not stand trial following a joint submission by Crown and defence counsel stating his case should go before the BC Review Board, which handles NCR cases.

The charges included the careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, discharging a firearm and assault with a weapon.

Both sides appeared before Judge Brian Hutcheson in Courtenay Provincial Court on May 31 to make the submission. After reviewing the matter, the judge agreed and ordered the matter be sent to the review board. The decision does require Froeschle to provide a DNA sample. The judge also noted the judicial release order remain in place until the review board handles the matter.

Leading up to the court appearance, Froeschle’s case was submitted for a psychiatric report, which was based on an interview with the suspect totaling about 10 hours.

“Mr. Froeschle co-operated fully,” Hutcheson said.

According to the judge, the report referred to issues such as “delusions” the accused held that impaired his judgment and made him perceive wrong as right. It summed up the mental disorder as one of persecution.

“Mr. Froeschle was incapable of knowing that his acts were wrong,” the judge said, summarizing the report.

These delusions included thinking the SPCA was trying to poison his animals, or involved other parties such as the military or neighbours. Specific delusions involved deaths of family members or various forms of abuse against his animals. His response was to discharge his gun in an attempt to scare off the SPCA investigator.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley man arrested after SPCA visit sparks shooting, standoff near Courtenay

Froeschle was charged in connection with an incident at his farm on Pickering Road north of Courtenay in March 2021. This followed a stand-off that lasted several hours. Comox Valley RCMP warned the public to avoid the area of Pickering, Graham and Cornwall roads, though they added the incident was confined to the residence in question. Later, an SPCA spokesperson said that while the investigating officer was physically unharmed, she was “shaken up.”

The matter now goes to the BC Review Board, an independent tribunal operating under the Criminal Code of Canada to protect the public in NCR cases. This involves psychiatric treatment, and following annual hearings, the board may order a person to remain in custody for treatment for the next 12 months, grant a conditional discharge in which a person may live out of custody but must participate in monitoring and ongoing treatment, or grant a full discharge.

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