Authorities locate a child on King George Boulevard

Authorities locate a child on King George Boulevard

Irrelevant history mars psychiatric report: lawyer

Sentencing of James McBeath – who pleaded guilty to parental abduction in South Surrey – has been delayed.

  • Mar. 30, 2012 2:00 p.m.

A man who pleaded guilty after the parental abduction of a young boy in South Surrey last fall will have to wait at least another month in jail before learning his punishment.

The sentencing hearing for Benjamin James McBeath had been expected to conclude this week in Surrey Provincial Court, but was delayed until May 3 after McBeath’s lawyer took issue with details contained in a forensic psychologist’s report.

But Mark Rowan’s submission that certain details were inappropriate or irrelevant to the case did not sit well with Judge James Bahen.

“I’m procedurally puzzled,” Bahen said Tuesday, noting he had ruled the full report admissible last month.

“Where are we at counsel? I’m confused.”

McBeath is awaiting sentencing on charges of abduction of a person under 16, aggravated assault causing bodily harm and being in a dwelling house without lawful excuse.

He was arrested Sept. 27, after police were called to a home in the 1500-block of King George Boulevard around 8 p.m.

Upon arrival, officers determined there had been a dispute, an alleged assault of a woman and the alleged abduction of a four-year-old boy.

An Amber Alert was issued around 9:40 p.m., but was deactivated about two hours later, after the boy was found in a vehicle spotted two kilometres away.

McBeath has been in custody ever since.

Initially charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and break-and-enter, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges in December.

Tuesday, the judge expressed frustration at the new delay in concluding the matter, noting he had expected to impose a sentence that afternoon.

“I wanted to try and assist the accused and the public in getting this matter resolved,” Bahen said, following Rowan’s submission that he needed to see notes and documents used to compile the report in order to properly cross-examine its authors.

Rowan responded: “I simply can’t do it… without knowing what’s in the file.”

As examples of irrelevant and inappropriate detail in the report, the defence attorney cited information including more than 1½ pages on McBeath’s past criminal activities and several pages referencing McBeath and his wife’s sex life.

Stripped down to what is admissible, Rowan said, it “would be a very different report.”

Asked how to proceed in order not to waste Tuesday’s court time, Rowan suggested the judge could: order the files noted by defence for review to determine what is relevant for cross-examination; discuss an application to exclude the victim-impact statement of McBeath’s son, who is now five years old; deal with witnesses who had attended court expecting to give evidence; or, deal with an application for bail.

The judge said he wanted to hear from the forensic experts, with prosecutor Brian Shaw noting Rowan could address his concerns with the report on cross-examination.

In response to questions from Shaw, psychologist Karen Whittemore said assessments such as that done on McBeath look to identify factors related to a subject’s risk for violence, and include details of any past treatments and mental health history, as well as information gleaned from interviews with the accused, the victim (in the case of spousal assault) and others who know the subject.

The psychologist testified that the report on McBeath was compiled and analyzed by a practicum student under her supervision, and included extensive interviews, including eight hours with McBeath himself.

It rated the 35-year-old’s “risk for spousal violence in general to be high,” Whittemore said.

In cross-examination, Rowan asked Whittemore to explain the inclusion of a number of details, including information that McBeath’s first serious relationship was with a woman seven years older than him who was engaged at the time to another man.

“Is there anything wrong with that?” Rowan asked.

Whittemore responded it might speak to how McBeath views relationships, but agreed with Rowan that it also speaks to how the woman views relationships.

Asked how details of charges from a 2007 incident that were stayed “could possibly be relevant” to the current case, Whittemore explained the information is required in scoring subjects on a psychopathy checklist.

Repeatedly, Rowan highlighted that certain sources and information could only be explained through access to notes that were used to compile the report. As example, he asked whether the victim – McBeath’s wife – was ever challenged on information she provided, and how much of the interview with her focused on the couple’s sex life.

Whittemore responded that the notes may not make details of any challenges clear, but agreed they would identify just how much time was devoted to the couple’s sex life.

Rowan also challenged several pluralized references in the report, including those regarding assault charges against his client; and that McBeath had demonstrated a life pattern of violence.

After an afternoon of cross-examination, the defence attorney conceded to the judge that further questions on the report could be directed to the actual report author.