Gordon Frank Nickerson made a court appearance Monday in Kentville provincial court.
By Kirk Starratt
An expert witness testifying in a dangerous offender hearing says, in his opinion, the subject is in the moderate–to-high range to re-offend compared to other sex offenders.
Dr. Scott Theriault, clinical director of the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University, testified during the fourth day of Gordon Frank Nickerson’s dangerous offender hearing in Kentville on Oct. 16.
Nickerson appeared for court wearing a suit and appeared calm and collected during the proceedings. During questioning by Crown prosecutor Robert Morrison, Theriault said he didn’t feel Nickerson displayed any evidence of psychiatric illness from previous contact he had with the offender and through reviewing his file. However, Theriault said he did find evidence of a personality disorder, which he described as an “enduring disturbance” in an individual’s personality.
Theriault said personality disorders do not respond well to medications. Psychotherapy is used primarily, but a personality disorder is difficult to treat due to the chronic, enduring issues at play.
Nickerson’s conduct while in prison was not problematic, however, and Theriault hypothesizes that Nickerson does better in a structured environment.
Theriault said different types of attachments are possible. He believes that when Nickerson becomes interested in a woman, he becomes deeply involved and invested in the relationship quickly. When the relationship doesn’t go well, Nickerson seems to experience a sense of catastrophic loss or “narcissistic injury.”
Later, during cross-examination by public defender Ken Greer, Theriault said it appears Nickerson’s issues are with intimate relationships. However, there is no evidence he is predatory and he has had intimate relationships that have ended without incident.
“His being in a relationship isn’t a risk factor,” Theriault said. “It’s only when the relationship that has been developed goes astray.”
Theriault used three different actuarial assessment tools in his assessment. From this, he said Nickerson is in the moderate-to-high range to re-offend compared to other sex offenders. As with all offenders, Theriault added, Nickerson’s likelihood to re-offend decreases with age.
Theriault said there seems to be a connection between Nickerson’s 2005 and 2012 offences. He said Nickerson was sexually aroused while committing the offences, although Nickerson has denied having sexually deviant fantasies or tendencies in the past. If he is experiencing such fantasies or visions, they have to be dealt with openly and Theriault said he doesn’t see that this has happened.
However, Theriault said he doesn’t think Nickerson’s issue is primarily sexual deviance: it seems to be a disturbance in his character, especially dealing with personal relationships. Nickerson seems to have gotten into a mental state that it was inevitable that he was going to commit the offences. Substance use doesn’t seem to be a big factor.
In regard to Nickerson’s 2005 offence, when Nickerson was under duress because his relationship was deteriorating, he became angry, distressed and experienced self-loathing. The other person became an object of hate and Nickerson wanted to hurt or humiliate her. Theriault said Nickerson’s 2005 and 2012 offences both involved suicidal inclinations.
Nickerson was arrested on Feb. 29, 2012 after fleeing the scene of a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of Commercial Street and Middle Dyke Road in New Minas. Nickerson had assaulted and abducted two women from the Yarmouth area, who were in the car he was driving. The court has ordered a publication ban on the names of the victims and any information leading to their identities.
Nickerson was charged with two counts of kidnapping; two counts of committing sexual assault while carrying an imitation weapon, breaking and entering a house and committing the indictable offence of kidnapping, two counts of committing anal intercourse and breaching a peace bond in Wedgeport on Feb. 29.
Nickerson was charged also with two counts of assault; dangerous driving and failing to stop after being involved in an accident with the intent of escaping civil or criminal liability in New Minas on Feb. 29.
Nickerson pled guilty to all 12 charges against him on April 16, 2012. The Crown made application to the court last year to have Nickerson declared a dangerous offender. The status of dangerous offender would make him subject to a longer or indefinite term of imprisonment. He has been in custody since his arrest in 2012. The dangerous offender hearing is scheduled to continue later this month.