Time running out for murder suspect to get psychiatric fitness assessment, court told

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Accused murderer Philip Toner is still awaiting a psychiatric fitness assessment as time for mental-health testing is running out, court heard Friday.

Defence counsel Talia Magder said Toner still hasn’t been transferred to the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre (SAFPC).

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“He has not been sent to SAFPC, he’s still at remand,” Magder told Calgary Court of King’s Bench Justice Rosemary Nation.

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“I’m concerned about the timing because we have a trial (date) set in November,” Magder said.

Crown prosecutor Lori Chambers echoed her concerns.

Chambers said Toner must be assessed within 60 days of the original order made by Nation on July 21.

“It needs to be dealt with. We’re running out of time between the 60-day window and the trial coming up,” Chambers said.

But Nation said there was nothing the court could do to speed up Toner’s assessment, which was requested by Magder during the accused’s July court appearance.

She suggested the prosecution might want to contact the SAFPC and let it know the urgency of getting the assessment done.

A determination of Toner’s fitness to stand trial — meaning he understands the legal process and can instruct counsel — must be made before his hearing begins.

If he were determined unfit to stand trial, his prosecution would have to be suspended until he were found able to appreciate the legal process.

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Toner is charged with second-degree murder

Toner, who was not present for the brief proceeding, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of a central Alberta woman whose body was found along a B.C. highway.

The remains of Cremona-area woman Brenda Ware were discovered May 6, 2021, along Highway 93, about 54 kilometres north of Radium in Kootenay National Park.

Toner was arrested in Lake Country, B.C., five days later.

At the time her body was discovered, police said Ware had been travelling from Didsbury to the national park. Because the case is being prosecuted in Alberta, the theory would have to be that Ware’s killing occurred before she arrived in B.C.

If convicted as charged, Toner would face an automatic life sentence with parole ineligibility being set anywhere from 10 to 25 years.

He remains in custody pending resolution of the case.

Chambers asked that the case return to Court of King’s Bench on Sept. 15 to determine if his assessment has been completed.

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