Dangerous offender case continues for local man

An ongoing hearing for a dangerous offender designation was heard before court in Estevan on April 28.

Reggie Harris, an Estevan man, was first before the courts for this hearing when it began in Regina on April 18. A dangerous offender designation could mean Harris may spend an indeterminate period of time in prison. The label is used for individuals whom would not spend that much time in jail for crimes they are convicted of but whom the court finds are a high risk to reoffend by committing violent crimes.

Roger DeCorby, senior Crown prosecutor, said the Crown is not pursuing an indeterminate prison sentence but instead seeking a sentence in the middle ground, involving incarceration followed by a period of supervision in the community.

"The judge has a number of options available when it comes to sentencing," said DeCorby.

He noted the judge's options range from an indeterminate prison sentence to no prison, instead serving a term of supervision in the community. Guilt is not being decided in this case, as that has already been determined in the courts, DeCorby added. This is simply a hearing to determine sentence.

During Thursday's court proceedings, the Crown called on the testimony of Dr. Terry Nicholaichuk, director of research at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon and adjunct professor for the department of psychology at the College of Arts and Science at the university of Saskatchewan, who evaluated Harris's psychological state over the course of three interviews between Nov. 26 and 28, 2010. A psychiatric assessment is the first step when the Crown seeks to designate a criminal as a dangerous offender.

A dangerous offender designation primarily hinges on the risk factor for the individual to reoffend.
Nicholaichuk called Harris a medium-low, to medium-high risk to commit further violent offences. While he noted Harris professed a desire during their interviews to change his behaviour, Nicholaichuk said it will take a long time before Harris lives a crime-free life. A number of conditions like abstaining from alcohol and distancing himself from some negative influences are necessary to come full circle, he added.

Regarding Harris's past in Estevan, as well as what he called "negative social factors," he told the court he didn't think Harris, if released into this community would be able to stay out of trouble if he remained in Estevan.

"He has such a reputation in Estevan, there is no way he could succeed here."

Nicholaichuk spoke about how Harris does do well for a period of time after being released from jail, but his good behaviour has yet to continue for a full year.

"I believe he becomes over-confident. He says, 'I can handle it,' and falls right back into the same problems. That is a common phenomenon."

Also testifying was Megan Kish, Estevan's probation officer, who was questioned about the programs and level of supervision Harris could find in this area if released.

She told the court the highest level of supervision this area provides is to check in once per week. A visit could include speaking about how one is progressing and how one is coping with their jobs or abstinence from alcohol. She told the court there are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings held in Estevan every night so he would be able to attend those.

As far as programming for mental health services, which addresses problems with anger or violence, Kish said they will refer the offender to an alternatives to violence program or one-on-one counselling with the mental health counsellor for Sun Country Health Region, who makes weekly trips to Estevan.

The hearing will continue June 15 and 16 in Regina when the final witnesses will be called. DeCorby said a few weeks later, the lawyers will argue their final statements, followed by a decision a couple of weeks after that.

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