Three years after psychiatrists raised concerns over a Yukon man’s ability to take part in legal proceedings, a judge has ordered an assessment of Michael Nehass.
Yukon Supreme Court Justice Scott Brooker made the order to send Nehass to an Ontario mental health centre yesterday.
Nehass was convicted in May 2015 of assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. He’s been detained at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre since 2011.
But instead of proceeding to sentencing, the Crown prosecutor sought to have Nehass declared a dangerous offender. That could mean an indefinite prison sentence unless the parole board is satisfied Nehass won’t pose a threat to the general public.
In early November Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux started raising concerns that going ahead would be unfair to Nehass. The judge agreed.
“Proceeding with the dangerous offender application would be a miscarriage of justice,” Brooker said.
The stakes are high for Nehass, and the application requires his participation, Brooker noted in his oral decision.
Back in 2013, a psychiatrist first expressed concerns over Nehass’ ability to properly instruct his lawyer.
Over the past five years Nehass has fired four different lawyers, claiming at times they were working against him.
“He thinks he understands what is going on … but he can’t participate,” wrote psychiatrist Shabehram Lohrasbe in 2013.
WCC raised similar concerns with the court, making it clear there was nothing the jail could do to deal with Nehass’ issues.
Another attempt to have Nehass found unfit failed in 2014. Judge Michael Cozens found him unfit, but the ruling was later overturned by the Yukon Review Board.
At the time another Crown prosecutor argued the Yukon Review Board decision didn’t supersede the judge’s order, and Nehass could be assessed again.
But instead Nehass pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his behaviour at the jail: fighting and wreaking havoc in one wing of WCC.
The fitness issue wasn’t raised again in 2015 when he went to trial on the assault and confinement charges.
The medical reports filed in 2013 and 2014 though made it clear that Nehass needed to be sent out of the territory to receive treatment and that his condition wasn’t going to improve on its own.
The reports filed to the court describe Nehass suffering from severe paranoid delusions, being at the time manic.
“The court has observed Mr. Nehass for the past years (and) there are reasonable grounds to order assessment,” Brooker said.
Over the past two years Brooker had to deal with Nehass constantly interrupting proceedings, at times shouting about mind-control conspiracies.
Brooker even kicked Nehass out of the courtroom on one occasion, when he refused to stay quiet. He followed the proceedings via video from another room.
Even on Thursday, after Brooker read his decision, Nehass started talking at a fast pace about conspiracies tying the RCMP, Verizon, CSIS, the CIA’s MKUltra program — in which the agency dosed people with LSD in an attempt to develop new interrogation techniques — and human trafficking rings operating in B.C.
As the hearing ended, Nehass shouted that he had a right to refuse treatment.
After the hearing, Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux told reporters that Nehass couldn’t fight the order. He also said the assessment wasn’t the same as treatment.
Treatment will be an option if the judge rules he is mentally unfit.
In that case, the proceedings will be paused until Nehass becomes fit again. The prosecutor would then be able to proceed with the dangerous offender application.
Nehass will remain at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services until Brooker orders him back to the territory. That way, if he is found unfit, it won’t require travel between the Yukon and Ontario, Marcoux said.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org