Man accused of sexual assault in Bowring Park declared mentally unfit to stand trial

Police were called to Bowring Park on a sunny day in July to a report of a sexual assault.  (Mike Moore/CBC - image credit)
Police were called to Bowring Park on a sunny day in July to a report of a sexual assault. (Mike Moore/CBC - image credit)

A forensic psychiatrist has determined that a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a summer day at Bowring Park is unable to stand trial as he is incapable of understanding the court process or the charge.

Dr. Jasbir Gill testified at provincial court in St. John's on Tuesday afternoon that she conducted two interviews with the 23-year-old man in November — one with his parents present and one without.

Gill testified neither was productive as the man "essentially has difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication" and that a lot of his responses repeated words and statements he heard other people say.

Gill agreed with the diagnosis he was given in childhood — autism spectrum disorder — and said he did not meet the threshold to stand trial.

"I observed he appeared quite childlike," Gill said, adding he was "severely below chronological age." She said he was "predominately non-verbal" and made random utterances with meaningless repetition.

She said he did not understand the nature of the court proceeding. When asked about the charge against him, he said, "No more hugging."

Defence lawyer Riley Moss agreed with the assessment of the man's mental fitness.

"I think it's obvious there is no dispute between the Crown and defence," said Moss.

Gill said the man's parents say their son has made some improvement since the incident, crediting new medical treatment.

They told the doctor that their son "had a habit of hugging everyone, even children," and that it started in childhood.

Paul Daly/CBC
Paul Daly/CBC

According to an agreed statement of facts, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was called to Bowring Park around 3:30 p.m. on July 25.

In her statement to police, the complainant said she was sunbathing when a man jumped on top of her, grabbed at her and moaned. She told the RNC officers that he grabbed her things and repeatedly said, "One more hug."

Her mother also provided a statement to police, in which she said the man pointed at her daughter and said, "You," and "One more hug."

She told police he was grinding against her daughter and pulling her bikini bottoms, and that she and her daughter struck him.

The police officers said the man had "an apparent cognitive delay" and that while he said he understood the rights and caution, it was clear he did not.

Gill said the man had no concept of the nature of the court proceedings. When asked what a judge was, he replied, "a mama."

Gill said he is of no imminent risk to himself or others, and testified it is unlikely he will ever be mentally fit for trial.

He will now be referred to the mental health review board, whose role is to "review and issue dispositions related to the management of those individuals accused of committing a crime who have been found unfit to stand trial," according to the board's website.

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