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Canada cracks down on mentally ill offenders

VANCOUVER - The Conservative government is providing courts with new powers to lock up people found not criminally responsible for their crimes due to mental problems.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government's latest tough-on-crime legislation targets people who are found to be too dangerous to be released.

Courts will be allowed to designate people who are found not criminally responsible as "high risk" — meaning they could be held for up to three years before their mental status is reviewed to see if they are fit for return to society.

Offenders deemed "high risk" could not be released until a court lifts the designation.

Currently, a review board assesses cases each year, on the understanding that "while the protection of society is paramount, there must be clear evidence of a significant risk to the public" of releasing the person.

The Justice department says that the meaning of someone being a significant threat to public safety will also be changed to include non-violent offences.