A Yukon judge will not be punished after apologizing for conducting a hearing while a prisoner was naked and in shackles, saying he understands "how he views this incident as an affront to his dignity." A judicial body that investigated a complaint from the prisoner's father said it is satisfied the judge has learned from the experience.
Justice Leigh Gower of the Yukon Supreme Court conducted the Jan. 22 hearing with Michael Nehass by video link from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Mr. Nehass has now been in solitary confinement for nearly three years, according to Linda Bonnefoy of the Yukon Civil Liberties Coalition Group, and has several charges against him, including forcible confinement, uttering threats and breaking a jail guard's nose.
Mr. Nehass had refused to attend the hearing, and was brought to the hearing room shackled and naked by guards in riot gear. The lawyers present in the courtroom did not protest. Russ Nehass, the inmate's father, later complained of an "inhumane and degrading public exposure" to the Canadian Judicial Council, a body of chief and associate chief justices.
According to a letter from the council to Mr. Nehass's father, Justice Gower was concerned about delays affecting the inmate, and was hoping to make arrangements to find a legal-aid lawyer for him. Justice Gower asked that Mr. Nehass, who suffers from mental disorders, be brought to the hearing.
The hearing was in its ninth minute when Mr. Nehass became visible on the video screen, from the torso up. Justice Gower tried to engage him in a conversation but failed and then ordered him removed, says the letter from Norman Sabourin, the council's executive director.