Nova Scotia

B.J. Marriott declared a dangerous offender

Brian James Marriott, better known by his initials B.J., has been declared a dangerous offender and ordered locked up indefinitely — but the decision announced Friday by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell is being disputed by Marriott’s lawyer, who has raised several Charter arguments.

A hearing has been scheduled for June to hear those arguments.

Marriott, 41, was convicted of aggravated assault for an incident at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, better known as the Burnside Jail, in December of 2019. A group of inmates attacked another inmate and beat him in his cell. Marriott did not participate in the actual beating but was part of the group who blocked guards and prevented them from intervening to end the assault. The target of the attack suffered life-threatening injuries but has since recovered.

As noted by Justice Campbell in his decision, Marriott has spent all but nine months of the last 20 years in prison. His criminal behaviour began when he was just 13 and continued up to the jail assault. Many of the offences for which he was convicted happened inside the prison system and included assaults on other inmates and guards.

In asking for the dangerous offender designation, the Crown argued that Marriott was a high risk to continue offending violently and that risk could not be managed safely in the community.

Marriott’s lawyer, Nathan Gorham, disputed that position and launched a concerted attack on the forensic psychiatrist who conducted the initial assessment on Marriott, Dr. Grainne Neilson.

Forensic psychiatrist’s expert qualifications questioned

Gorham accused Neilson of being biased and disputed her qualifications as an expert.

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“She suggested that he has been inculcated, shaped by antisocial beliefs and that those antisocial beliefs will be very difficult for him to overcome,” Gorham wrote in one of his submissions to the court.

“Her language referring to him as living feral suggested that he was dangerous like an animal. Her reference to his cognitive distortions concerning his employment verged on ridiculing him.”

Campbell rejected Gorham’s suggestion of bias against Neilson and noted that there was a fair amount of common ground between her assessment and one prepared by a psychiatrist hired by the defence.

Campbell said despite repeated references by correctional officials that Marriott was part of a gang, there was no evidence presented to him to support that claim. However, the judge did say that Marriott appeared to live by a prison code where he felt the need to go along with other inmates and never cooperate with authorities.

Had the judge not agreed to the dangerous offender designation, Marriott would have been looking at a sentence for aggravated assault in the range of six years. With credit for time served, he’s already spent about that much time in custody and so could have been released right away.

Dangerous offender designation subject to reviews

“[T]he position taken by Mr. Marriott, through his counsel, is that he is ready for the street now,” Justice Campbell wrote.

“He does not need programming. He does not need any more time within an institution. If he is not ready now, and I find that he is not, there is no evidence about any timeframe that might guide the process of the imposition of a longer fixed-term sentence followed by a long-term supervision order.”

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The dangerous offender designation is subject to regular reviews to see if the situation has improved.

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