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April 21, 2009 permalink
Byron Prior says that he grew up in a family of twelve children in Grand Bank Newfoundland. His father was a fisherman who spent most of his time at sea, home for only a few days a month, so the family was run by his mother. On September 8, 1966, when Byron was 13 years old and his sister Suzanne (or Susan) was 11 years old, Mr Alexander Hickman was elected to the Newfoundland house of assembly. On election night he came to the Prior home to celebrate. With the connivance of her mother, Mr Hickman got Suzanne pregnant. She gave birth to a girl, Marjorie, adopted the following year by the mother of Byron and Suzanne, Marjorie's grandmother. Mr Hickman went on to hold several ministries including Minister of Justice. In 1979 he became chief justice of Newfoundland, retiring in 2000. You can hear Mr Prior's story on two YouTube videos  and  (local copies  and  both flv).
Both at the time, and decades later, Mr Prior has sought to bring Mr Hickman to justice for his crime. The province of Newfoundland instead prosecuted Mr Prior for criminal libel, but a conviction was overturned by an appellate court (pdf) in 2008. The latest effort to silence him is a psychiatric assessment. Judge David Orr ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Mr Prior. Efforts to get the assessment done by Dr Marty McKay failed, instead he was referred to Dr David Craig. Dr Craig's Clinical Note appears below. We also enclose a CBC report of one of Dr Craig's earlier patients, Mary-Anne Marshall, also a doctor, who killed herself on July 6, 2004, the day of her discharge from Dr Craig's care. This death could be, as the CBC article suggests, an unfortunate error in assessment by Dr Craig. Or it could be what critics call "pump and dump". Psychiatric medicines operate by suppressing the production of a brain chemical. The brain responds over time by generating more receptors for the chemical, adjusting toward normal behavior. When the drug is withdrawn, the normal chemical levels return to an oversensitized brain, producing the opposite of the behavior intended for the drug, in the case of anti-depressants extreme depression and suicide. The CBC article says that Dr Craig took Dr Marshall off her medications. The same treatment applied to Dr Mary-Anne Marshall could be the end for Byron Prior.
April 3, 2009
Mr. Byron David Prior
Seen: April 3, 2009
Mr. Prior is a 55 year-old married disabled former crane operator from Conception Bay South who is charged with criminal libel. He was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment by the Honorable Mr. David Orr, Provincial Court Judge, of St. John's Provincial Court. Judge Orr's main question is whether or not the defense of "not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder" should apply to Mr. Prior's case.
Mr. Prior is alleged to have committed criminal libel against Mr. Justice T. Alex Hickman, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Trial Division by publicly accusing Mr. Justice Hickman of having raped Mr. Prior's sister in 1966, thereby impregnating her, and of having subsequently gone to great lengths to cover up the alleged rape. A letter from Ms. Elaine Reid, Crown Attorney, of the Special Prosecutions Office to me dated March 27, 2009 clearly establishes, at least in my mind, that Mr. Prior's allegations against Justice Hickman have been disproven. "Googling" the names "T. Alex Hickman" and "Byron Prior" yielded several "hits" alleging the above-mentioned offenses by Mr. Justice Hickman.
Mr. Prior understands the nature, seriousness and potential consequences of the offense with which he is charged. He also understands Court Procedure, the functions of the Officers of the Court, his right to plead guilty or not guilty to the offense with which he is charged and the consequences of either plea. He is capable of giving valid instruction to Counsel acting in his defense. He is therefore, in my opinion, fit to stand trial.
When asked what this assessment was all about, i.e. what led to his being ordered to see me, Mr. Prior essentially repeated his previous allegations. He reported having repeatedly gone to the RCMP since 1960 complaining of incest, child prostitution and sexual abuse of his family members. He then alleged that in 1966 Mr. Justice Hickman, then a provincial politician "wanted" his mother and his sister as "sex toys for the night" of his election and proceeded to rape his sister, as a result of which she became pregnant and bore a son who, Mr. Prior reported, now works for Hickman Motors. Mr. Prior reported that Mr. Justice Hickman and others, including his then Executive Assistant, went to great lengths to cover up the alleged rape and to silence Mr. Prior, even going to the point of arranging for Mr. Prior to be hired as a "Warder" at Her Majesty's Penitentiary.
Mr. Prior reported having repeatedly complained to the RCMP about the matter and about other incidents of physical and sexual abuse against several of his siblings by his mother and others, including several politicians, several times over the last 40 years, particularly since 1998. He also reported having spent several months on Parliament Hill in Ottawa where, according to his report, he handed out 22,700 pamphlets outlining his allegations against Mr. Justice Hickman and where, according to his report, he was approached by several politicians, each of whom promised to investigate his allegations but failed to report back to him concerning the matter. Mr. Prior also reported having spent some time in front of the House of Assembly in St. John's where he reportedly handed out another 7000 similar pamphlets. Finally, Mr. Prior reported having had to appear in court on six previous occasions on charges similar to his current charge. He expressed determination to "obtain justice for my family" and to continue publicly making his allegations against Mr. Justice Hickman until he (Mr. Justice Hickman) is brought to justice.
I pointed out to Mr. Prior that at least one police investigation has disproved his allegations against Mr. Justice Hickman. Mr. Pryor's response was to the effect that this investigation simply consisted of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary asking the Peel Regional Police in Ontario to ask his sister four questions, that the Peel Regional Police spent a total of 10 minutes with his sister and that this investigation was therefore completely inadequate. I then went on to suggest to Mr. Prior that he might possibly be mistaken in his allegations against Mr. Justice Hickman, to which Mr. Prior replied that this was not possible as he was present at the time of the alleged rape and knew what he saw.
Mr. Prior also reported having repeatedly demanded a DNA test and having repeatedly offered to pay for the DNA test. He reported having asked the Honorable Judge Orr for a DNA test of Mr. Justice Hickman but that, instead, Judge Orr ordered him (Mr. Prior) to be assessed by me.
Mr. Prior denied that there was anything wrong with his mental health. He denied feeling depressed, anxious or otherwise distressed. He described his sleep, appetite, and energy as intact. He denied diurnal mood variation or suicidal or homicidal ideation.
Mr. Prior reported that, when he was about 14 years old, his mother, who was reportedly a "regular" at Waterford Hospital, brought him to Dr. Omesh Kashyap, psychiatrist, in an attempt to have him admitted to Waterford Hospital. Mr. Prior reported having attempted suicide by overdose in response to his mother's attempt and that Dr. Kashyap admitted his mother to Waterford Hospital and arranged to see Mr. Prior daily for about two weeks, after which Dr. Kashyap reportedly told Mr. Prior that there was nothing mentally wrong with him. Mr. Pryor also reported having taken an overdose of unspecified pills earlier in his childhood. He denied any other history of mental health difficulties or any other history of suicide attempts. He reported having been circumcised at age 4 because of trauma to his penis "because my mother made a toy of my penis" and having fractured his nose and his clavicle. He reported being a "chronic kidney stone former" and of suffering from chronic osteoarthritis. He denied any other significant medical history. He has no known allergies. His only current medication is celecoxib (Celebrex). He is reportedly supposed to take an antihypertensive agent but has not done so for the last month, reportedly because he cannot afford to pay for the drug.
Mr. Prior was born and raised in Grand Bank. According to his report, he is the second of 14 siblings. His older brother and one sister died in childhood. I neglected to inquire about Mr. Prior's mother's pregnancy or about his birth, developmental milestones or early health. Mr. Pryor reported that his father was a sea captain who was only home about three or four days per month and that his mother was chronically mentally ill, was frequently admitted to Waterford Hospital, was promiscuous and subjected her children to prostitution. He reported physical and sexual abuse of himself and his siblings by his mother as well as by other people in the community, including several prominent politicians. Mr. Prior reported having quit school in grade 10 after which he reportedly worked on boats, as a correctional officer at HMP for 14 months and on offshore oil rigs for several years. He then helped set up and teach a Basic Offshore Survival Training course for about two years in the mid-19 80s, and then drove taxis, delivered pizzas and carried out a number of other jobs. He last worked sometime in 2007. Mr. Prior reported having met his wife at around age 17 and having been married for the last 34 years. He reported that their marriage has had its "ups and downs". They have one son, now age 22. He denied any history of legal difficulties, other than those mentioned above.
Mr. Prior reported having quit smoking about 15 years ago. He reported drinking occasionally and in moderation. He denied any history of drug abuse.
Mr. Prior reported that his mother was frequently mentally ill and was "a regular" at Waterford Hospital. His half-sister reportedly suffers from a personality disorder and is also familiar to staff at Waterford Hospital. Mr. Pryor denied any other family history of mental illness, substance use disorders or suicide. He reported that one brother was briefly in conflict with the law.
Mr. Prior lives with his wife in Conception Bay South. They are supported by income from a GIC belonging to his wife.
Mental status examination revealed Mr. Prior to be appropriately dressed and groomed and in no apparent distress. At the beginning of the interview, Mr. Prior asked me if I minded him taping the interview and then turned on a Dictaphone. There were no other unusual behaviors and no disorders of speech or thought. Mr. Prior's mood was euthymic. He had a normal range of affect. There were no apparent hallucinations. He has a delusional system concerning Mr. Justice Hickman which is outlined above. Although formal cognitive testing was not done, he appeared oriented and cognitively intact.
A brief conversation with Mr. Prior's wife revealed that he first began making his allegations against Mr. Justice Hickman in approximately 1998 and that these allegations are an at least daily topic of Mr. Prior's conversation.
As best I can determine, Mr. Prior suffers from a delusional disorder. The only significant other possibilities are another mental disorder mimicking a delusional disorder, deliberate lying by Mr. Prior, which I do not believe, and guilt on the part of Mr. Justice Hickman, which 1 understand has been disproven.
Delusional disorders are characterized by non-bizarre (i.e. plausible) fixed false beliefs which are held with absolute conviction and are not in keeping with the individual's religious, cultural or socioeconomic background (i.e. delusions) and the relative absence of other psychopathology. In Mr. Prior's case, he is deluded that Mr. Justice Hickman raped his sister thereby impregnating her and subsequently went to great lengths to "cover up" the rape. He has gone to great lengths to publicize his belief, his intent being to clear his family name and to bring Mr. Justice Hickman to justice. He made it clear to me that he intends to keep doing so in the future.
If Mr. Justice Hickman were guilty of what Mr. Prior believes him to have done, then Mr. Prior's alleged actions would appear to constitute a legitimate (although extreme) attempt to bring Mr. Justice Hickman to justice. They would therefore be justifiable, i.e. "right", not "wrong".
I am therefore of the opinion that Mr. Prior is suffering from a mental disorder, namely a delusional disorder, the nature and severity of which is such as to render him incapable of appreciating that his alleged acts, assuming he committed them, are wrong. Therefore, in my opinion defense of "not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder" should apply to Mr. Prior's case, assuming he committed the offence with which he is charged.
Delusional disorders do respond, to a certain extent, to antipsychotic medications, classically to the antipsychotic agent pimozide (Orap). However the response to antipsychotic agents varies from patient to patient and the prognosis of delusional disorder is limited, at least partly by patients' lack of insight into their illnesses and their consequent reluctance to take antipsychotic medications on a regular basis.
As best I can determine, Mr. Prior is not otherwise acutely mentally ill. He is neither suicidal nor homicidal.
Mr. Prior is, in my opinion, fit to stand trial.
David Craig MD, FRCPC
Source: private communication
MD's family files suit over post-discharge suicide
Psychiatrist deemed MD's risk as low
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 | 7:28 AM NT, CBC News
The family of a physician who committed suicide in 2004 is suing the St. John's psychiatrist who discharged her from hospital just hours before her death.
Mary-Anne Marshall died July 6, 2004, the same day she was discharged from the Health Sciences Centre's psychiatric unit in St. John's by Dr. David Craig.
In a statement of claim filed in Newfoundland Supreme Court, Marshall's brother Alfred — the executor of her estate — said Marshall was admitted to hospital with a history of depression.
Days before her death, Marshall, a family physician, made a call from the hospital to the staff at her medical clinic.
She asked them for a syringe and lidocaine, a pain-deadening drug, which another physician at the clinic recognized as "a suicide kit." That physician instructed staff not to turn those items over to Marshall.
Court documents also say Marshall made what family members described as "goodbye calls," which were reported to Craig.
She was assessed by a hospital psychologist, who also reported to Craig that she was at significant risk for suicide.
Her family claims Craig ignored that and other signs that she was suicidal. Craig deemed Marshall to be at low risk for suicide and discharged her from hospital, without medication.
Hours later, Marshall ended her own life.
The claim argues that both Craig and Eastern Health — the regional authority which manages the Health Sciences Centre — were negligent. It also argues that Craig should have kept Marshall in hospital for her own safety.
The claim seeks losses, including loss of income and support for Marshall's young daughter. The suit also seeks damages as well as the legal costs of this case.
In a statement of defence, Craig said Marshall's treatment team agreed that her suicide risk was low and that she should be discharged.
He also said Marshall displayed manipulative behaviour and that he took her off her medications in order to get a clear diagnosis of her condition.
Craig said Marshall's suicide came as a complete shock to him.