At the dangerous offender hearing for Leslie Ivan Roderick Black an expert psychologist said Black, while severely troubled and in need of intensive treatment, is not entirely beyond hope.
Black pleaded guilty to attempted murder after a vicious 2014 assault on a Prince Albert woman. After beating and raping the woman, Black lit her on fire resulting in the amputation of both her legs and severe damage to her eyesight. His dangerous offender hearing has been running since March 13 at Prince Albert Provincial Court. If he receives the designation, Black could be imprisoned indefinitely.
Today the first defense witness, psychologist Dr. Terry Nicholaichuk, took the stand. Nicholaichuk interviewed Black over a two-day period and compiled a lengthy report detailing his risk to reoffend.
Unlike Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe, who testified for the Crown last week, Nicholaichuk said the extreme violence used in Black’s crime does not necessarily mean he is at an increased risk of recidivism. Nicholaichuk noted there is no peer-reviewed evidence to suggest a relationship between the level of harm done to a victim and rates of reoffending, while those who have shown an pattern of violence are highly likely to commit more violent crimes.
Nicholaichuk described Black as cognitively compromised, but not emotionless or sociopathic. Black requires intensive, long-term therapy, he said, but did not display the ongoing “pattern of brutality” which makes an offender a truly high risk.
Many of Black’s issues, Nicholaichuk said, are likely rooted in the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after witnessing his mother’s brutal murder on his ninth birthday. Nicholaichuk also speculated that Black may suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder based on his numerous cognitive disabilities and reports by Black’s sister that their mother drank while pregnant.
“It’s actually difficult to imagine a more tragic history,” Nicholaichuk said.
It is impossible to determine exactly how Black will respond to intensive treatment and programming, Nicholaichuk said, as to date nobody has made the attempt.
“Mr. Black has many serious challenges to overcome if he is to survive in the community,” Nicholaichuk said. “He wants to be more successful but frankly he doesn’t have the skills.”
If Black remains in prison on an indeterminate sentence, Nicholaichuk said, his treatment options will be severely limited. According to Nicholaichuk, Black has been targeted by other inmates and fears his victim’s family is conspiring to have him killed, a concern which will result in Black spending considerable time segregated from other inmates where his only therapeutic contact will be a suicide watch.
Nicholaichuk recommended Black serve his sentence in a British Columbia institution where he will be distanced from media coverage and have access to Indigenous cultural programming.
Black’s Saskatoon-based defense lawyer Brent Little said the only other witness he may call during the hearing is Black himself. Little said he will confer with his client tonight to decide if Black will take the stand tomorrow.
The hearing, initially scheduled to run until Friday, is expected to conclude tomorrow morning, March 21.
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