Michael Nehass found unfit for court proceedings

Michael Nehass is unfit to take part in court proceedings because of mental disorders, a Yukon Supreme Court judge ruled Jan. 24.

Michael Nehass is unfit to take part in court proceedings because of mental disorders, a Yukon Supreme Court judge ruled Jan. 24.

Justice Scott Brooker made the finding after a psychiatrist testified about Nehass’s mental heath.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Derek Pallandi told the court Nehass suffers from schizoaffective disorder, because he is showing a mix of psychotic symptoms and mood disorders.

Pallandi is an Ontario psychiatrist who has done more than 5,000 fitness assessments over his career.

Nehass was agitated when he met with Pallandi for the assessment, talking at length about numerous conspiracies and asking the psychiatrist to take down a flurry of information Pallandi could barely keep up with. Nehass insisted on being videotaped, citing fears of being mistreated.

During previous court hearings Nehass has interrupted judges, Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers to talk about what he believes is a conspiracy inside the justice system involving the RCMP, U.S. telecom company Verizon, the CIA and human trafficking rings in B.C.

While Nehass understands how the justice system works — one of the criteria determining fitness to take part in judicial proceedings — the constant intrusion of psychotic experiences and beliefs undermines his ability to take part in the proceedings in a meaningful way and to properly instruct counsel, Pallandi said.

If Nehass were to represent himself, Pallandi said he would have “grave concerns” over his ability to conduct a proper defence.

Pallandi is the fourth psychiatrist to raise concerns about Nehass’s mental health and his ability to take part in the legal process. A court-appointed psychiatrist first made similar findings in 2013.

While all four psychiatrists came to different conclusions as to Nehass’s diagnosis, they all noted he suffers from psychotic symptoms, Pallandi said.

Pallandi told the court that Nehass should be prescribed anti-psychotic medications.

The Criminal Code allows courts to order 60 days of treatment to make an accused fit again.

Nehass could be fit to take part in the proceedings after 60 days of treatment, Pallandi said, adding there is usually a “prompt softening of symptoms,” citing scientific literature.

While there are reported cases of individuals whose psychoses “went away” on their own, that’s highly unlikely, he added.

Nehass has been at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre since 2011 on charges of assault with a weapon and forcible confinement.

He was convicted in 2014 but proceedings have been dragging on since.

Nehass fired multiple lawyers and filed a lengthy constitutional challenge over his prolonged stay in segregation units.

The Crown wants Nehass declared a dangerous offender, which would mean an indefinite prison sentence. That in turn also slowed proceedings down, as the court didn’t want Nehass to be self-represented, given the serious potential outcome.

In November 2016, Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux told the court he had become concerned about Nehass’s ability to take part in the proceedings. Marcoux filed transcripts of messages Nehass left on the Yukon chief federal prosecutor’s voicemail and used Nehass’s own constitutional challenges to have the court order a fitness assessment.

Brooker agreed, saying that it would result in a miscarriage of justice if the dangerous offender application were to go forward.

Nehass has been detained at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences since.

Lawyers are back in court Jan. 25 to convince Brooker he has the power to order treatment for Nehass. Typically, the Criminal Code only provides for treatment orders before trial, but Nehass has already been convicted.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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