Defence expert optimistic on Black’s rehabilitation chances

Psychologist Terry Nicholaichuk, pictured in front of Prince Albert's provincial courthouse. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

After a psychiatrist warned Leslie Black could cause “catastrophic” harm if released, a defence psychologist painted a much more optimistic picture of his risk to society.

But he also mentioned one damning detail: Black may have used an accelerant to set his victim aflame.

Psychologist Terry Nicholaichuk met with Black on two occasions at the Regina Correctional Centre. He presented his findings to the court on Monday, launching the second week of Black’s dangerous offender hearing. Black could face an indefinite sentence for brutally attacking Marlene Bird, who he disfigured and burnt in 2014.

Nicholaichuk said that Black poses only a “moderate” risk of future violence and could be successfully rehabilitated through treatment.

He took a position completely opposed to Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe, who testified last Wednesday that the “unique” and “extreme” nature of Black’s crime raised serious concerns.

“There is no clearly established link between the severity of the offence and the risk of subsequent offences,” Nicholaichuk said.

Nicholaichuk’s testimony may have served the defence well, overall. But he mentioned one point, in passing, that the court hadn’t yet heard – an aspect of Black’s crime that seems particularly vicious.

The psychologist said he’d consulted a surgeon’s report that said Marlene Bird wasn’t set aflame with a lighter alone. Based on the surgeon’s assessment, Nicholaichuk said, her attacker used an accelerant – something like gasoline, fuel or hard alcohol – to make her burn.

For more on this story, please see the March 21 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.