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An Ontario judge has slammed the province's mental health review board for abusing the rights of a 38-year-old man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1985 sex-slaying of department store heiress Nancy Eaton.

In a toughly worded ruling, Madam Justice Maria T. Linhares de Sousa of the Superior Court of Ontario said that numerous errors by an Ontario Review Board panel caused "substantial unfairness" to Andrew Leyshon-Hughes and created an apprehension of bias.

The board abruptly cut off Mr. Leyshon-Hughes's annual review in December, calling for additional evidence and, possibly, an experiment that would involve cutting off his psychiatric medication.

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Ms. Eaton - a great, great granddaughter of Timothy Eaton, founder of the iconic department store chain - met her death in a bizarre and gruesome manner. Mr. Leyshon-Hughes, a childhood friend who had slept over at her house, attacked the 23-year-old woman as she slept, stabbing her 21 times before having sex with her dead body.

Mr. Leyshon-Hughes, who was 18 at the time, later told police that he had juggled a pair of eggs over his dead friend's body and then stolen her car. He was arrested at a service station, apparently while driving to a lakeside cliff over which he had intended to plunge.

A witness at Mr. Leyshon-Hughes's 1986 trial, McGill University professor Frank Ervin, said that he was "a crocodile man" whose behaviour was controlled by a primitive portion of his brain.

Initially, Mr. Leyshon-Hughes was kept under tight security and viewed as potentially untreatable. In recent years, lawyer Marlys Edwardh has persuaded the ORB to grant her client more freedom to come and go. He has even been permitted to hold down jobs and attend college in Ottawa.

However, that trend stalled in December, when the ORB questioned whether he is as safe as Mr. Leyshon-Hughes's psychiatrist, Dr. John Bradford, claimed that he is.

It said it would like to hear fresh evidence that might shed light on Mr. Leyshon-Hughes's early history of "anti-social behaviour, impulsivity and violence," and could explain his doubtful claim that he did not have sexual fantasies about his victim.

"A disclaimer of sexual fantasies about her at that point in his life and in those circumstances, while possible, is highly unlikely," the board said.

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In her ruling, Judge Linhares de Sousa ordered a new hearing to take place before a different ORB panel. She also awarded Mr. Leyshon-Hughes his legal costs.

Judge Linhares de Sousa questioned the wisdom of the ORB in attempting to reopen the bulk of the Leyshon-Hughes case "in the face of an obviously successful diagnosis and treatment" that has allowed him to spend most of his time in the community.

She noted that, under Dr. Bradford, he made strides forward while being treated with a new medication. "In my view, it prematurely closed down the hearing and, in that way, breached the fundamental principles of natural justice by its conduct," the judge said.

In regard to a suggestion from the board that Dr. Bradford experiment by cutting off Mr. Leyshon-Hughes's medication to see how he reacts, Judge Linhares de Sousa said it "demonstrates the kind of mischief" that results when a board panel plays fast and loose with a patient's procedural rights.

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