‘Ottawa’ ‘Unbelievable’ That Man Charged With Hammer Attack Was Out Free, Crown Says
It was “unbelievable” that a man found not criminally responsible three times before he brutally attacked Nabute Ghebrehiwet with a hammer was freely walking the city’s streets, an Ottawa court heard Monday.
Jeffrey Webber, 32, has been charged under the Mental Health Act with aggravated assault and possession of a dangerous weapon in connection with the unprovoked December 2014 attack.
The attack, near the corner of Bank and Somerset streets, gave Ghebrehiwet a large scar on his forehead and blinded him in in one eye, leaving him unable to return to his Canada Revenue Agency job.
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On Monday, Crown prosecutor James Bocking presented his final arguments in the judge-only trial.
Bocking said the case was “remarkable on many levels,” especially given that Webber had been found not criminally responsible on three other occasions dating back to 2006 — including one other aggravated assault charge.
Why a man with his record is walking on the streets is unbelievable. – Crown attorney James Bocking
Bocking argued that evidence given by Dr. Helen Ward, Webber’s psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, showed that Webber’s schizophrenia continues to be “treatment resistant” — despite the fact Webber has been compliant with his medication schedule.
“Why is this man out?” Bocking asked. “Why a man with his record is walking on the streets is unbelievable.”
Attack not in dispute
Webber’s defence lawyer, Trevor Brown, isn’t contesting that his client attacked Ghebrehiwet, who was out for his nightly stroll through Centretown, on Dec. 9, 2014.
However, he is arguing that Webber — due to his severe mental illness — didn’t have the mental capacity to understand his actions were illegal.
Under the order of the Ontario Review Board, Webber has served time in forensic psychiatric facilities due to two previous charges in the province.
When the attack on Ghebrehiwet occurred, Webber was attending Algonquin College while living in a group home with 24-hour supervision.
According to staff reports at the home several days before the attack, Webber said he was hearing voices in his head — but didn’t want to talk about it because it made him feel more stressed.
Bocking told the court that staff members didn’t press Webber about the voices he was hearing, and that posed a risk to the community.
‘Balanced’ decision needed, says Crown
Bocking didn’t ask the judge to find Webber criminally responsible for the attack, instead calling for a more “balanced” approach.
The Crown attorney acknowledged that two other psychiatrists — one for the prosecution and one for the defence — offered differing opinions about the level of Webber’s psychosis at the time of the attack. He concluded by saying it was up to the judge to determine how much weight to give to that expert evidence.
“The bottom line is [that] this is a close call as to whether the presumption of insanity has been met,” Bocking said.
The defence is scheduled to present its closing arguments Tuesday