Nichele Benn, Amanda Murphy & Richard Rector

CBC Interview with Brenda Hardiman and Cindy Carruthers regarding incident at Quest with Nichelle Ben in September 2014

(The interview is from 7:00 to 9:00)

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NS/ID/2508566143/?page=14

CBC Interview with Brenda Hardiman  and Cindy Carruthers regarding Nichelle Benn:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NS/CBC+News%3A+Nova+Scotia/ID/2508566143/?page=2

 

Nichelle Benn’s mother says her daughter should not be dragged through the justice system because of her intellectual disability.

(CBC News February 26th, 2014)

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NS/ID/2440098153/

Nichele Benn pleads not guilty in assault case

Brenda Hardiman says her daughter has an organic brain disorder

(CBC News, February 24th, 2014)

  • Nichele Benn

Nichele Benn is accused of assaulting her healthcare worker last December and now faces charges of assault and assault with weapon. Pictured here on Feb. 24, 2014. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A 27-year-old woman with an intellectual disability who is accused of biting and striking a staff member at a care facility in Nova Scotia has pleaded not guilty to assault charges. Nichele Benn entered the plea on Monday in a Dartmouth provincial court to the charges of assault and assault with a weapon. Her trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 31. Brenda Hardiman said her daughter shouldn’t be before the courts because she has an organic brain disorder. She was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She also has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and an intellectual disability that keeps her in a perpetual childhood, her mother said. Police allege the young woman bit and hit an employee with a foam letter and a shoe at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Halifax on Dec. 12. Benn was living at the centre.

“We don’t hear of assault charges placed against people experiencing Alzheimer’s who have bouts of aggressive behaviour. We’re no different,” Hardiman said.

“We are yet again calling on our Premier Stephen McNeil and our federal Justice Minister Peter McKay to jointly meet with the families of others in the same situation. We are desperate for your intervention.” Archie Kaiser, a law professor and supporter of the family, said group homes can aggravate situations. “We have to see that as a pent-up issue here in Nova Scotia. We have had too many years of inaction in terms of the governments’ — successive governments’ — failure to provide appropriate, independent, living circumstances for people living with intellectual disabilities in the community,” he said. A spokesman for the Halifax police said officers also have to consider the alleged victim when laying charges in cases like Benn’s.

Better training for workers

Cindy Carruthers, a mental health advocate, said the health care workers helping people like Benn need proper training. “What we would like to see is a consistency in the system for individuals like Nichele and others like her,” she said. Carruthers said violent outbursts generally happen at homes and are not a threat to the public. Benn’s case is expected to be a three-day trial.

Nichele Benn pleads not guilty

The accompanying video:

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=296285

Justice system struggles with woman charged with assault

Fate unclear for Amanda Murphy who has an IQ of 52

(Herald News, February 6th, 2014)

Members of People First Nova Scotia, an advocacy group for those with intellectual disabilities, protested at Nova Scotia Provincial Court in Antigonish on Thursday. They say Amanda Murphy should not be dealt with in the criminal justice system. Murphy, who has an IQ of 52, appeared in court on charges of assaulting a care worker. (AARON BESWICK / Truro Bureau)

Members of People First Nova Scotia, an advocacy group for those with intellectual disabilities, protested at Nova Scotia Provincial Court in Antigonish on Thursday. They say Amanda Murphy should not be dealt with in the criminal justice system. Murphy, who has an IQ of 52, appeared in court on charges of assaulting a care worker. (AARON BESWICK / Truro Bureau)

The criminal justice system is trying to figure out what to do with Amanda Murphy.

According to a 2009 psychological assessment, the 34-year-old has an IQ of 52 and the mental maturity of someone five to eight years old. Murphy is charged with assaulting a caregiver in September at the Celtic Community Homes group home in Antigonish and with violating a probation order. Murphy lives at the group home. At the time of the incident, she was on probation for a 2013 assault conviction in Pictou County. Antigonish provincial court heard Thursday during her appearance on the November charge that new ones are forthcoming from a more recent incident. “
I’m not sure,” Gerald MacDonald, Murphy’s lawyer, said when asked after her appearance if there is a precedent stating that someone has to be dealt with by the court system according to their chronological age rather than their mental one. MacDonald and the Crown agreed to adjourn Thursday until Feb. 19 so that a forensic psychologist can assess whether Murphy is criminally responsible for her actions and also if she is mentally fit to stand trial. “The overall picture is that of an IQ of 52, which is the low side of the extreme low end,” Brenda Hardiman said outside court, reading from a 2009 psychological assessment of Murphy done for the Community Services Department. “Due to her poor adaptation skills, we could fairly classify her as functioning lower (than that),” the report said. “This discussion did not lead me to believe that she understands the harm that could ultimately result from her aggressive behaviour.”
Hardiman is co-chairwoman of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia. She and members of People First Nova Scotia, an advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities, were outside the courtroom Thursday protesting against Murphy’s case being put through the criminal justice system at all. Also present was Murphy’s father, Victor. The protesters said they want better training from care workers and more options to be made available to group home residents, such time-out rooms, as alternatives to calling the police and pursuing criminal charges. They also called for the installation of video cameras that record sound in small option homes. Hardiman said the issue of people with intellectual disabilities being processed criminally is relatively new and results from an increased tendency of care workers to call the police when residents are behaving aggressively.
Elizabeth MacDonald, a Community Services Department spokeswoman, said Thursday there is no departmental policy that requires care workers to call police due to aggressive residents. She said care facilities are “independent employers and, as such, develop their own occupational health and safety policies which meet their needs and help ensure the safety and security of the individual exhibiting aggressive behaviour, other residents and staff.” MacDonald said care staff at these facilities are well trained and “experienced in dealing with challenging situations and rarely have to call police for assistance.” Police are only called as a last resort in “situations of imminent danger when other less intrusive interventions fail and the person exhibiting the aggressive behaviour is a threat to themselves or other residents, staff or bystanders,” she said.

Intellectually disabled N.S. woman facing  new assault charges

(CTV News-February 6th, 2014)

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/intellectually-disabled-n-s-woman-faces-new-assault-charge-1.1673464

The case against a 34 year old woman facing assault charges for striking a worker in the group home where she lives has been delayed until later this month.

Amanda Murphy smiled at supporters as she entered the Antigonish Courthouse Thursday.

A advocacy group called People First Nova Scotia says Amanda has the cognitive function of an eight year old.

“We will go wherever there are people with special needs bring criminalized because of their disability,” says supporter Cindy Carruthers.

Last year, Amanda pushed and struck a staff member at the group home where she lives.

Today, she and her father expected she would be sentenced for that incident, but the matter was delayed, in part, because of a new charge of assault laid against Amanda last Friday.

The Crown plans to apply for a psychiatric report.

Amanda’s father, Victor, would like to see video surveillance in group homes, to show what really happens.

“It would protect the staff and protect my daughter,” explains Murphy. “Right now, my daughter has no say. It’s her word against two, three staff, whatever.”

Brenda Hardiman’s daughter, Nichele Benn, is going through the courts for a similar situation.

Hardiman believes if the girls are incarcerated, their behaviors will likely continue, and their time behind bars would be extended.

“If we need to review how the laws are dealing with people with intellectual disabilities, then we need to look at what revisions need to take place,” She says. “These people are children inside adult bodies and need to be treated that way.”

It will be a busy month for the People First Nova Scotia movement: Amanda Murphy’s next court appearance isscheduled for February 19th..

Nichele Benn will be in court on the 24th.

Read more: http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/intellectually-disabled-n-s-woman-faces-new-assault-charge-1.1673464#ixzz3B1wX8CvX

Group for those with intellectual disabilities want policy changes

(Canadian Press and Aly Thomson, February 2nd, 2014)

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia group that speaks for people with intellectual disabilities says although it has been gaining public support, it wants more commitments from federal and provincial leaders to implement policy changes in the justice system.

About 40 people held signs and tied red ribbons around their arms as they marched to Halifax provincial court in the city’s downtown Sunday afternoon. It was one of eight protests happening across the province as part of the group’s push to stop the criminalization of people with special needs.

Nichele Benn, a 26-year-old Nova Scotia woman with an intellectual disability, was recently charged with assault and assault with a weapon after she was accused of biting and striking a staff member at a care facility in Halifax.

Yvette Cherry, a rally organizer, said cases like Benn’s shouldn’t be before the courts because the behaviour challenges of those with intellectual disabilities shouldn’t be considered criminal.

“These are individuals who are the mental age of a child, 12 or younger,” said Cherry, whose 17-year-old son has an intellectual disability.

“Our criminal code protects children from being dealt with in the criminal justice system. We need to amend that code so it protects our other vulnerable persons who may be in an adult body but have the cognitive skills of a child.”

The group is calling on federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to look at amending the criminal code to ensure there are protections in place for people with intellectual disabilities.

Benn’s family recently met with McNeil. Although no commitments were made, McNeil said the province’s Community Services Department would follow up with them.

Devin Way, a 39-year-old man who says he has intellectual and physical disabilities, said the challenges that come with having special needs are complex and those people shouldn’t be held accountable in the same way as someone without an intellectual disability.

“Your thought process may be able to hold onto a complete day of conversation, and while some of us can hold onto that conversation, there’s some… who are going to forget right after the conversation done,” he said while walking down Barrington Street.

“I have to push the limits all the time.”

Police allege Benn assaulted an employee at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre on Dec. 12. Her case is scheduled to return to Dartmouth provincial court on Feb. 24.

Parents argue that their children with special needs should not face jail

Police interventions and criminal charges believed to become more common

(Halifax media Co-op, January 20th, 2014)

by ROBERT DEVET

Brenda Hardiman, mother of Nichele Benn, and Victor Murphy, father of Amanda Murphy.  Both Amanda and Nichele face charges for allegedly assaulting staff in the institutions where they are housed. Photo Robert DeVet Brenda Hardiman, mother of Nichele Benn, and Victor Murphy, father of Amanda Murphy. Both Amanda and Nichele face charges for allegedly assaulting staff in the institutions where they are housed. Photo Robert DeVet
These could be your children, said David Kent, self-advocate and vice president of People First Nova Scotia.  Photo Robert Devet These could be your children, said David Kent, self-advocate and vice president of People First Nova Scotia. Photo Robert Devet
Victor Murphy, Brenda Hardiman and Cindy Carruthers at the press conference.  Photo Robert Devet Victor Murphy, Brenda Hardiman and Cindy Carruthers at the press conference. Photo Robert Devet
K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax) –  Amanda Murphy is a 34-year-old woman with developmental disabilities. In early February she will be sentenced in Antigonish for allegedly pushing and striking an employee of the institution where she lives. Soft-spoken Victor Murphy, the father of 34 year old Amanda, suggested at a press conference in Halifax that his daughter does not belong in the criminal justice system. The press conference was organized by People First Nova Scotia and Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia to draw attention to the plight of citizens with special needs who are caught up in the criminal justice system. “Amanda is just a child, but now she is being treated as a criminal,” said Murphy. “She can’t help what she does. She is not a murderer, she is just a child trapped in a woman’s body. They look and they see this grown woman, but they don’t realize that she has the capacity of a five- to eight-year- old.” Also at the press conference was Brenda Hardiman, mother of Nichele Benn, and co-founder of Advocating Parents Nova Scotiaan organization that helps parents of children with special needs navigate the system. Similarities between Amanda Murphy and the Nichele Benn case are striking. Nichele, who also faces assault charges, has an organic brain disorder that causes her aggressive episodes. And like Amanda Murphy, Nichele has been convicted of assault charges before. A third case was also briefly mentioned at the press conference. Richard Rector suffered brain injuries after an ATV accident while in his teens. Since his accident he experiences periodic episodes of aggressive behaviour. He too was charged with assault. People First Nova Scotia and Advocating Parents believe that the criminal justice system is not the place to deal people like Amanda, Nichele, and Richard. “If Nichele is incarcerated her behaviour will not change, in fact it would worsen,” said Hardiman. “If Nichele were to strike out at a prison guard out there she would be charged with assault [again], and her incarceration would be extended.” “It’s not a learning curve, it’s a health issue,” said Hardiman. Murphy is very worried about what the future will bring for his daughter, who is still on probation. “The only thing I want to say is that Amanda has the capacity of a five- to eight-year-old. So what do you do, you put somebody like that in jail?,” asked an exasperated Murphy. Murphy said that his worries are further aggravated because he doesn’t know who willl stand up for his daughter when he and his wife are no longer able to. Hardiman, Nichele’s mother, believes that a change in caretaker protocol initiated by Community Services is the direct reason for Nichele’s encounters with police and the criminal justice system. Nichele, who is a resident of Quest, a large residential rehabilitation centre in Lower Sackville, used to live in a much more intimate setting, says Hardiman. Effective use of a therapeutic quiet room allowed Nichele’s caretakers at the time to manage Nichele’s aggressive episodes without any need for police intervention. However, Hardiman said, all that changed when the Department of Community Services disallowed the use of the therapeutic quiet room and advised Nichele’s caretakers to call the police any time Nichele’s aggression could not be managed. “So that’s when things changed for Nichele; since then she has seen many police interventions, criminal charges, and she has been incarcerated,” said Hardiman. Speakers at the press conference called for bettter training for staff of group homes and institutions. Cindy Carruthers, a coordinator at People First Nova Scotia, believes that the calling of police and the laying of criminal charges is a relatively new phenomenon. “When I was a front-line worker [..] we were trained to come up with solutions and be innovative. It is very challenging, each individual has their own unique needs. Staff were trained to think outside the box,” said Carruthers. “Maybe the province should look at those homes that are very successful with that approach and model after those.” There was also agreement among the speakers that criminalization of people with special needs is much more common than many people assume. Carruthers mentioned that at the Nichele Benn support rallies held earlier this month in Lower Sackville and elsewhere many people spoke of similar experiences. “It scares me to think how many people are in jail who are just like that. And how many more are out there,” said Hardiman. Elizabeth MacDonald, spokesperson for the Department of Community Services writes in an email dated January 20th that police are rarely called and “only as a last resort, in situations of imminent danger.” Policies are not set by the Department but are up to the care-giving facilities. This response does not impress Hardiman. “To me it’s just passing the responsibility on to somebody else,” says Hardiman. “Community Services places these people in these homes, so they would have some say how these people are managed.” David Kent, self-advocate for people labeled with an intellectual disability, and vice president of People First Nova Scotia, believes that there must be a better way to deal with these violent incidents in group homes and institutions. Familes and self-advocates have to work with government and disability organizations to come up with better ways to support people with special needs, Kent argued. “We as a community must begin to look at citizens with special needs as family. It could be your son, or daughter, or grandchild. Would you want their needs to lead to arrest and jail? Just stop and think for a moment,” Kent said.

Dave Kent, Vice President of People First Nova Scotia, gave a speech at the Press Conference in Halifax on January 20th – to advocate to “Stop Criminalizing People with Special Needs”. This was the speech he gave that day:

DAVE KENT – VICE PRESIDENT  – PEOPLE FIRST NOVA SCOTIA

My name is Dave Kent and I am the vice president of People First Nova Scotia. Members of our organization are self advocates who have been labelled with an intellectual disability. Members of People First believe that citizens with special needs who have health issues that can lead to aggressive behaviours they cannot control should not be arrested and put in jail for their disabilities. Families and self advocates have to work with Government and disability organizations to come up with better ways  to support persons with special needs. They deserve better from our society. We as a community must begin to look at citizens with special needs as our family. It could be your son or daughter or grandchild we are talking about here – with an accident or disease– your son or daughter or grandchild could have special needs. Would you want their needs to lead to arrest and being placed in jail?  Just stop and think of that for one moment…. Another way for the community to view this situation is to remember that Amanda, for example, has an intellectual mentality of a five to eight year old. You would not consider holding a child this young legally responsible if they hit someone, so it does not make sense to punish a woman with this intellectual age for this action. There are better ways to support Nichele, Amanda and Richard and others like them  than arrest them and put them in jail. Jail is meant to teach a person that what they did is wrong and teach them not to do it again or they face further jail.  Nichele, Amanda, Richard and those like them will not learn these consequences. They do not have control over their behaviour because it is caused by their disability.They do not learn from their actions. The best ways to support them is to make sure their homes are comfortable and their needs are met , that they have well trained staff who can help them when they start having these behaviours. Thank you.

Demonstration of Support Poster Information

Stop Criminalizing People With Special Needs

Help Nichele Benn, Amanda Murphy and Richard Rector

Have We Learned Nothing From Ashley Smith

Nichele                 Amanda

 Nichele Benn                   Amanda Murphy                       Richard Rector

Sunday 2 February 2014

Peaceful demonstrations of support in Nova Scotia, days before Amanda Murphy is sentenced in court for assault.

  HALIFAX    

  • 1:00  pm-Meet at the Superstore
  • 1075 Barrington Street, Halifax- park at the farthest end of the parking lot.
  • Look for red demonstration posters
  • 1:15 pm Walking procession to Halifax Provincial Court
  • 1:30 -2 pm– Demonstration of Support                      

NORTH SYDNEY, CAPE BRETON    

  • 1:00 pm- Meet at Superstore –park at farthest end of parking lot, away from store
  • 125 King Street, North Sydney
  •  Look for red demonstration posters
  • 1:15 pm- Proceed to Cape Breton Regional Police Dept.
  • 412 Purvis St
  • 1:30 -2 pm– Begin Demonstration of Support                            

TRURO    

  • 1:00 pm-Meet at Superstore (where garden centre is located during summer months)  
  • 46 Elm Street, Truro, Nova Scotia
  • 1:15 pm-Truro Justice Centre
  • 540 Prince Street
  • 1:30 -2pm-Begin Demonstration of Support                        

WINDSOR    

  • 1:00 pm-Meet at Hants County War Memorial Community Centre
  • 78 Thomas Street, Windsor
  • 1:15 pm-Procession to RCMP Station 140 Morrison Drive
  • 1:30 – 2pm- Demonstration of Support                        

YARMOUTH    

  • 1:00 pm—-Meet at Yarmouth Library
  • 1405 Main Street, Yarmouth    
  • 1:15 pm—– Procession to Yarmouth Justice Centre
  • 164 Main Street   
  • 1:30 – 2pm– Begin Demonstration of Support

AMHERST

  • 1:10 pm-Meet at Bridge Adult Service Centre 16 Station Street. Parking lot next to Moore’s Recreation
  • 1:25 pm-Walking procession to Amherst Justice Centre, 16 Church Street
  • 1:30 -2pm-Demonstration of Support 

NEW MINAS

  • 1:30 pm- Meet at Old Civic Centre (across from Canadian Tire at the lights)
  • Walk to the RCMP detachment on Jones Road.  

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 6th – ANTIGONISH, NOVA SCOTIA

Amanda Murphy is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 am 8:45                

  • Meet at 4 Vincent Way (Amanda’s small option home) 9:00                
  • Drive in a procession to Antigonish Justice Centre 11 James Street
  • Enter courthouse and attend court appearance in support of Amanda and her family.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ashley-smith-jurors-watch-video-showing-her-death-1.1364650   http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/after-death-deemed-homicide-ashley-smith-family-calls-for-new-criminal-investigation-1.1600083     This is an effort to change how our law enforcement system reacts to people with special needs Peaceful demonstrations of support for Nichele Benn, and others like her, are arranged across the Province of Nova Scotia on the day Nichele is to appear for finger printing. January 5 2014

This could be a member of your family…

Nichele being wanded

           Nichele Benn being wanded at Dartmouth Provincial Court

9:30 am Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

  • Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre 70 Memory Lane, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
  • 9:45 am Procession to RCMP Station 711 Old Sackville Road, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
  • 10:15 am Finger printing process
  • 10:45 am End of Demonstration of Support
  • Supporters will meet at Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre (where Nichele is forced to live).
  • Please park in the front of the building, walk up the second driveway to the side of the building.
  • Supporters will stand outside waiting for Nichele to come out of the building (letting her know she’s not alone) and drive in a procession to the RCMP Station (Red Ribbons tied to car antenna) and four way flashers activated on all vehicles.
  • Once arriving at RCMP station, supporters will exit vehicles and stand in front of the RCMP station waiting for Nichele and her family to arrive.
  • Supporters will wait outside the RCMP Station until the finger printing process is complete and Nichele exits the RCMP station.

9:30 am New Minas, NS

  • Meet at Louis Millett Community Complex 9489 Commercial Street New Minas
  • 9:45 am Procession to RCMP Station 18 Jones Road, New Minas
  • 10:15 am Finger printing process (actual location of Nichele’s finger printing will be in Lower Sackville
  • 10:45 am End of Demonstration of Support

9:30 am TRURO, NS

  • Meet at Superstore (where garden centre is located during summer months) 46 Elm Street, Truro, Nova Scotia
  • 9:45 am Procession to RCMP Station 283 Pictou Road, Bible Hill, Nova Scotia
  • 10:15 am Finger printing process (actual location of Nichele’s finger printing will be in Lower Sackville
  • 10:45 am End of Demonstration of Support

9:30 am WINDSOR, NS

  • Meet at Hants County War Memorial Community Centre 78 Thomas Street, Windsor
  • 9:45 am Procession to RCMP Station 140 Morrison Drive, Windsor
  • 10:15 am Finger printing process (actual location of Nichele’s finger printing will be in Lower Sackville
  • 10:45 am End of Demonstration of Support

9:30 am YARMOUTH, NS

  • Meet at Yarmouth Library 405 Main Street, Yarmouth 9:45 am Procession to RCMP Station Corner of Main and Prospect Streets
  • 10:15 am Finger printing process (actual location of Nichele’s finger printing will be in Lower Sackville)
  • 10:45 am End of Demonstration of Support

Simultaneous demonstrations of support are planned in communities across Nova Scotia and will be communicated in the coming days. For further information please contact: Cindy Carruthers, People First Nova Scotia, 902-305-0423 Rachel Murphy, People First Nova Scotia, 902-305-2074

News Clips and Articles

Stop Criminalizing People with Special Needs Rally

(February 2nd, 2014

My daughter is not a criminal:Advocates want support, not jail time, for people with special needs

(Halifax Commoner, January 20th, 2014)

Victor Murphy is concerned that his developmentally challenged daughter, Amanda, will receive a prison sentence for assaulting a staff member at a group home in Antigonish.

“Amanda is just a child and now she’s being treated like a criminal when she can’t help what she does,” said Murphy, a paramedic from Truro.

Amanda is 34, but has the capacity of a five to eight year old, said her father. She is bipolar, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and experiences episodes of aggressive behaviour.

Amanda will be sentenced in Antigonish on Feb. 6.

Victor Murphy at a press conference.

“I’m kind of disappointed in the staff (at the group home) that they would actually go to the method of filing assault charges rather than trying to work something out,” Murphy said.

Brenda Hardiman, co-chair of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia, a group that supports parents of children with intellectual and physical disabilities, voiced similar arguments at a press conference on Tuesday.

“They can’t look at these people in the regular court system,” she said.

Hardiman’s 26-year-old daughter, Nichelle Benn, is also facing assault charges. In her case, she threw a shoe and a foam toy at a staff member at the rehabilitation centre where she resides.

Benn has an organic brain disorder and faces other challenges.

Hardiman and Murphy are frustrated with their children’s support staff.

“To charge someone with special needs of assault with a weapon, I don’t know. That indicates to me that they’re not trained,” said Hardiman.

Cindy Carruthers, administrative coordinator for People First Nova Scotia, an advocacy group for people labeled with intellectual disabilities, believes violent incidents can be reduced with proper support from trained staff.

“These citizens should not be housed and warehoused in institutions,” said Carruthers.

“They have the right to live out in the community. They need staff that are well trained to meet their individual needs.”

When Murphy voiced his complaints about the way his daughter was treated at her group home, he tried not to make overarching statements about the staff as a whole.  He said he was conflicted about speaking out because his daughter is still under their care.

“You wonder if something is going to be done against her because you’ve spoken out. We’re not there 24-7 to watch this,” said Murphy.

Because of the developmental challenges Amanda Murphy and Nichelle Benn face, prison is not the answer, said Hardiman.

“Her behaviours won’t change while she is in there,” she said.

“If she struck out at a guard in there, she would be charged with assault and her time would be extended.”

People First Nova Scotia hopes to speak with lawmakers, such as federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, to prevent people with special needs from receiving criminal charges.

“It scares me to think how many people are in jail that are just like (Murphy and Benn),” said Hardiman.

More incarnation reforms need to prevent another case like Ashley Smith

(January 19th, 2014)

Law Professor Weighs In On Nichelle Benn Case

(January 15, 2014)

Kayla Houssell talk to Brenda Hardiman, Nichelle Benn’s mom and Cindy Cartuthers, People First Nova Scotia

(January 5th, 2014)

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=269617&binId=1.1145463&playlistPageNum=1 

Windsor People First Rallies to Support Nichelle Benn

(January 5th, 2014)

http://www.hantsjournal.ca/News/2014-01-05/article-3564949/Windsor-People-First-rallies-to-support-Nichele-Benn/1

People First Kings County Special Report

(January 5th, 2014)

Concerned mom speaks out after daughter’s arrest

(December 6, 2013)

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/concerned-mom-speaks-out-after-daughter-s-arrest-1.1596085

Help Nichele Benn-Have we learned nothing from Ashley Smith?

(May 10, 2013)

Rigid Rules Put Family in A Bind

(March 19th, 2013)

Brenda Hardiman sits in a friend's Bible Hill living room. Hardiman, whose daughter has intellectual and physical challenges, is concerned about protocol used to address her daughter's uncontrollable outbursts at an assisted living facility. (MICHAEL GORMAN / Truro Bureau)
Brenda Hardiman sits in a friend’s Bible Hill living room. Hardiman, whose daughter has intellectual and physical challenges, is concerned about protocol used to address her daughter’s uncontrollable outbursts at an assisted living facility. (MICHAEL GORMAN / Truro Bureau)
 BRENDA HARDIMAN HAS TRIED WORKING on things from the inside but in the absence of progress is now speaking out.

Hardiman’s daughter, 25-year-old Nichele Benn, has an organic brain disorder. She began exhibiting bouts of aggressive behaviour following an epileptic seizure when she was four. By Grade 5, Benn started to be difficult to manage and Hardiman, a small woman, had to consider her limited physical capability to deal with her daughter and the fact that there were two other children in the house. “I wasn’t able to look after her without having risk to me or  other family members,” she said. So Hardiman made the difficult decision to place her daughter in the Alternative Family Support Program run by the Community Services Department. Things were going well, said Hardiman, until department protocol changed five years ago and her daughter’s alternative family was no longer allowed to use a therapeutic quiet room when Benn would experience aggressive outbursts. With new protocol requiring police intervention during an episode, Benn was forced to move to a rehabilitation centre in Lower Sackville. The change makes no sense to Hardiman, who calls it an unjust way to treat people with problems they have difficulty controlling. Since the protocol change, Benn has had 17 police interventions, seven incarcerations and several assault charges and convictions. Nine months ago, Benn scratched the face of a commissionaire during an aggressive outburst; the police were called, Benn was arrested, charged and sentenced to 18 months’ probation, 24 hours of community service and ordered to provide a DNA sample. For Hardiman, the situation is unconscionable. She’s met with Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse and written to Justice Minister Ross Landry. It’s Hardiman’s hope that the three can meet to discuss a change in the way the province deals with people with mental and physical disabilities. It makes little sense to her that her daughter should constantly be put through the legal system, risking longer stints in jail. “If she strikes out at a guard, then she will have a violation, which would extend her time.” Peterson-Rafuse said in an interview that she plans to speak with Landry about the issue. While the protocol change happened before Peterson-Rafuse and the NDP came to power, she said the situation needs to be examined. “I think it’s worth looking into any situation that has created difficulties for a family,” the minister said. “There needs to be more discussion.” T he matter is complicated, said Peterson-Rafuse, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be addressed. Trying to prevent future problems is part of her job and the minister said she is cognizant of the risk of creating a legal cycle for people such as Benn. “I’m always open to have those discussions to improve the system,” she said. “I believe that this is an issue that we need to address and have conversations about because it may happen again in the future.” Since speaking out, something she called a last resort, Hardiman said she’s received a lot of support from friends and strangers alike. Efforts to promote the cause through the Internet and a Facebook page have also been successful, she said. Hardiman’s greatest fear is that her daughter ends up in a similar situation as Ashley Smith, the New Brunswick teen whose troubled life ended in a jail cell suicide. Hardiman has met and talked with Smith’s mother several times. “I’ve been working at this for five years, trying to get (the province) to change this protocol because this is a very imminent  potential situation,” said Hardiman.

A woman with intellectual disability winds up in court

(February 7th, 2013)

http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningns/2013/02/07/a-woman-with-intellectual-disabilities-winds-up-in-court/