Whitehorse Daily Star

Accused is fit for trial, review board concludes

The Yukon Review Board has found Michael Nehass fit to stand trial.

By Rhiannon Russell on August 19, 2014

The Yukon Review Board has found Michael Nehass fit to stand trial.

The decision comes after a territorial court judge found the opposite in May – that the 30-year-old was unfit.

Nehass is facing several charges, including assault and forcible confinement.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, being “unfit to stand trial” means being unable, due to a mental disorder, to conduct a defence, or to instruct counsel to do so, at any stage of the proceedings before a verdict is given.

With the board’s finding, Nehass’ case will return to the courts for a fitness hearing.

After meeting with Nehass at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre earlier this year, a forensic psychiatrist concluded that the man suffers from a light form of bipolar disorder, with symptoms associated with thought disorder, conduct disorder and schizophrenia.

In May, Judge Michael Cozens ruled Nehass was not fit to stand trial.

“Paranoid and grandiose delusions … overwhelm his ability to maintain a rational connection for any sustained period of time,” Cozens told the court.

“Mr. Nehass could not effectively act in court.”

In such circumstances, the case goes before the Yukon Review Board for further assessment. The board must hold a disposition hearing on the matter, and if it finds the accused fit, the case returns to court for a fitness hearing.

If the board rules unfitness, it must hold a hearing at least once every 12 months to reassess the accused’s ability to stand trial.

The board heard Nehass’ case on Aug. 11. It appointed Vancouver-based Bibhas Vaze as his lawyer.

Last Friday afternoon in territorial court, Nehass appeared in handcuffs and Vaze phoned in to the courtroom.

A court order will be needed to appoint Vaze as Nehass’ counsel for future proceedings. If that occurs, Vaze said, he’d need disclosure from the Crown on Nehass’ matters.

Nehass’ next court date is set for Sept. 5.

“We’ll determine at that time how this case will move forward or conclude,” Schmidt said, though Vaze replied it likely wouldn’t be possible to conclude the case by then.

Nehass has been in jail since December 2011, awaiting trial.

Since then, he has racked up additional charges, including assaulting a correctional officer.

He has said he spent more than two straight years in solitary confinement at the jail. The Department of Justice denies that.

Last January, Nehass was brought naked and shackled before the court via video camera for a case management conference.

That court session resulted in a court-ordered assessment into his psychological stability and ability to stand trial.

Nehass’ father has filed a complaint with the Yukon Human Rights Commission regarding his son’s treatment at the jail.

Comments (2)

Up 4 Down 22

IN Trust on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Ok, then he has time served x3. Let him go and get the help he desperately needs. Then let Correctional Service of Canada be accountable for caging him up and letting him deteriorate. Such a a disgrace to human rights.

Up 17 Down 3

Thomas Brewer on Aug 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This thug needs to remain in prison for the rest of his life.

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