Coroner's inquest to explore circumstances behind death of 27-year-old P.E.I. man

A coroner's inquest will be held later this year to look into the troubled life and sudden passing of a young man who was found dead last July at the age of 27.

"We can confirm that there will be an inquest into the death of Colton Clarkin," a spokesperson for the Prince Edward Island Department of Justice and Public Safety said in an email. The email said the inquest would be held in the fall of 2024.

"He was an extremely talented artist and his gentle soul and loving nature has left an indelible mark on all who knew him," Clarkin's family wrote in the Emyvale man's official death notice, asking that donations be made in his memory to the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts Centre in Summerside.

For years, Clarkin had been struggling with mental health issues and addictions, including episodes that landed him in the court system and led to him being admitted to the Hillsborough Hospital for treatment.

He was absent without leave from that Charlottetown institution when he was found dead on the Confederation Trail outside South Winsloe, with officials later concluding he had taken his own life.

Clarkin was at the Hillsborough Hospital because of a May 2023 ruling from Prince Edward Island's Criminal Code Review Board, which was trying to determine where he would be treated after a judge found him not criminally responsible for a number of weapons offences in 2022.

One of the biggest recruitment tools provincial officials have is a series of new buildings to replace aging facilities in and around Hillsborough Hospital.
Colton Clarkin was sent to Hillsborough Hospital for mental health care after being declared not criminally responsible at a trial involving weapons charges in 2022. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

He had also been involved in the armed robbery of a convenience store in Charlottetown, and assaulted another inmate while in custody.

At the time provincial court Judge Nancy Orr found Clarkin not criminally responsible, on Sept. 14, 2022, she ordered him detained at the Provincial Correctional Centre until a bed opened up at Hillsborough Hospital.

After that order was carried out, he came under the supervision of a number of medical staff and counsellors who tried to help him. However, his drug use got in the way of getting a firm medical diagnosis, the Criminal Code Review Board was told.

"Mr. Clarkin has not had an extended period of abstinence as he either absconds from hospital and uses, or smuggles drug paraphernalia into the hospital," the board's ruling said in summing up the evidence of Dr. Declan Boylan, who provided a written report.

"He has absconded several times while in hospital and while on passes with his family... He is marginally engaged with addiction services, and will not consent to take any disease-modifying medication."

Boylan's letter warned that "it is doing a disservice to Mr. Clarkin to not provide him with treatment in an appropriate facility," and urged that he be sent to East Coast Forensic Hospital in Nova Scotia.

However, Trish Cheverie, acting as Clarkin's lawyer for the hearing, submitted that another course should be pursued.

"Mr. Clarkin has no interest in leaving the province for treatment as he believes it would not be helpful to him, and he does not wish to leave his family," Cheverie was quoted as saying in the board's ruling.

The woman, who is 33 weeks pregnant, was attacked on Monday while she was caring for a patient at the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Dartmouth.
Dr. Declan Boylan, a psychiatrist who provided a report on Colton Clarkin, wanted him treated at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, saying: 'It is doing a disservice to Mr. Clarkin to not provide him with treatment in an appropriate facility.' (Jean Laroche/CBC)

She said her client wanted a conditional discharge to get treatment in the community, or as an alternative, he wanted the hearing adjourned so that he could try to comply with the advice of his treatment team on Prince Edward Island.

Citing Clarkin's continued irregular behaviour, and his attempts to contact a woman he had been ordered to stay away from, the board ruled that he continue to be "detained in custody in a hospital."

That hospital continued to be Hillsborough Hospital until the last time Clarkin evaded custody, with Charlottetown Police asking people to be on the lookout for him on July 28, 2023.

His body was found a short time later.

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