Sentencing for doctor attacker kicks off

Gregory Nield, found guilty of aggravated assault in April, won’t be sentenced this week

Gregory Nield’s sentencing hearing began Friday morning, but Justice Hope Hyslop won’t be making a decision this week, with little time to deliberate between lawyers’ proposals and the end of day on Friday. Mark Brett/Western News file photo

Sentencing for a man who was found guilty of a vicious assault on a Penticton Regional Hospital psychiatrist won’t be wrapping up this week, with Justice Hope Hyslop acknowledging she wouldn’t have time to properly deliberate.

Sentencing began Friday morning for Gregory Nield, who was found guilty Apr. 7 of aggravated assault for an attack on a doctor in an interview room in December 2014.

Crown lawyer Sarah Firestone and defence lawyer Stan Tessmer are calling for two disparate sentences — Firestone is calling for two to four years in jail, while Tessmer is asking Nield only receive a probation period.

That Nield attacked the doctor in the two-and-a-half-year-old case was never disputed in trial this April. Instead, Tessmer sought to clear Nield’s name by arguing his mental state had deteriorated under the care of Dr. Rajeev Sheoran, who the defence believed was improperly medicating Nield.

The defence and Crown do agree that in 2014 Nield and Sheoran entered an interview room. Nurses reported hearing loud banging, followed by Nield walking out, alone.

Read more: Jury finds Nield guilty of attacking doctor

The injuries to Sheoran were numerous, according to Firestone, who said when a nurse attended to him, an eye was protruding and his jaw appeared to be fractured.

“His jaw was wired for five or six weeks. He had to get titanium implants put into his face. He still has ongoing dental treatment,” Firestone said. “He had one surgery in Kelowna to repair the facial injuries and has had ongoing dental treatment for his teeth.

“So, I’d say that the injuries sustained were significant.”

Firestone added that Sheoran has reportedly been suffering from brain damage as a result of the incident, which Tessmer disputed, claiming most of the trauma for Sheoran was a result of the trial process, rather than the injuries he suffered.

Sheoran also claimed in a victim impact statement that he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. The incident has reportedly affected his social, recreational and occupational trauma, the latter of which has caused financial woes for his family, which has taken on debt and delayed paying taxes.

Related: Doctor takes the stand in hospital assault trial

Firestone said she believed there was little to indicate that Nield was remorseful. A 2015 psychiatric report indicated his belief that he had done something wrong, but more recently he had apologized to his and Sheoran’s family, but not to Sheoran, himself.

Tessmer said he, too, had a hard time understanding how Nield should be remorseful, if the defence’s case is to be believed — a case that Tessmer was barred from bringing forward in a voire dire.

“My view of the facts continues to be that my client ought not to have been committed into custody by Dr. Sheoran because he was stoned on mushrooms and the best strategy would have been to not give him any drugs and see how he was over the next two or three days,” Tessmer said.

“Doctors immediately started giving drugs to my client, and you’ve heard from my client’s parents how he deteriorated when he was in the hospital.”

Related: Defence turns tables on doctor

Firestone claimed sentencing should be done with intent to denounce the crime and deter future crimes, adding that there was a secondary case to promote reparations and responsibility for the damage done.

But Tessmer said he believed the opposite were true — his argument that Nield’s actions were done in a state of mental duress would point to the need for rehabilitation, rather than as punishment.

“Denunciation and deterrence have no role in sentencing a man for acts that occurred when he’s been admitted into the hospital because he can’t take care of himself or others,” Tessmer said. “He required care, supervision and control for his own protection and the protection of others.”

Firestone put forth a number of historical cases that largely followed a convention of 16 months to six years in jail for aggravated assault, but Tessmer argued that none of those cases addressed someone who was suffering from a mental disorder, as Nield reportedly was at the time of the attack.

Related: Trial on alleged doctor attack wraps up

In court on Friday, Tessmer listed off some of the potential side effects of those medications, which included anxiety, delusions and hallucinations.

Tessmer also brought forward several letters of recommendation from friends and family members that spoke to Nield’s character as a community- and family-minded man, who was always willing to help out, along with some footnotes of his own and some notes from psychiatrists he has seen since the incident.

Those notes indicated co-operation from Nield in attempting to address any issues he may be facing.

Tessmer noted that he spent around two-and-a-half months in jail, and over the past two-and-a-half years, he has been under house-arrest-like conditions.

Tessmer has noted that he intends to file an appeal of the guilty verdict before Nield can spend any time in jail.

Related: Police ID psych patient accused of assaulting doctor at Penticton hospital