Doctor who signed off on Lionel Desmond’s firearms licence testifies at inquiry

The doctor who signed off on the firearms licence review for Lionel Desmond in 2016 is testifying Monday at a Nova Scotia fatality inquiry about why he felt the Afghanistan veteran seemed stable enough to own a gun 10 months before he killed his family and himself.

Dr. Paul Smith treated Desmond in Fredericton from late 2015 to early 2016 — at the same time that the former soldier was being recommended for in-patient treatment by his military psychiatrist and psychologist.

On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond fatally shot his wife, Shanna, 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda, at a mobile home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. He then turned the gun on himself.

Smith previously told CBC that he had seen Desmond respond to treatment of physical activity and medical cannabis and that, while he’d been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder in 2011, had symptoms that appeared to be in remission. 

His military mental health team, however, disagreed.

In a request to St. Anne’s Hospital in Montreal, his military health team described Desmond in December 2015 as having “severe” symptoms of PTSD and depression, so severe that he had trouble functioning in social situations and in work.

They recommended he be accepted as an in-patient at the treatment program for veterans with PTSD.

A military psychiatrist diagnosed Desmond with PTSD in 2011, although he began showing symptoms soon after he returned from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan in August 2007.

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