Mentally ill man held not criminally responsible for libel


Ajudge has ruled that a mentally ill man who accused a former politician of sexual misconduct can’t be held criminally responsible for damaging the politician’s reputation by spreading the accusations.

Byron Prior was charged with a defamatory libel after he published leaflets, wore placards and made comments on a website about the former politician, whom he accused of sexual misconduct with his own young sister in the 1960s.

The charge against Prior read that he’d published comments he knew were defamatory and false on May 29, 2008.

Prior didn’t deny making the comments. Rather, he argued that the statements were true and therefore not defamatory.. However, evidence entered by police, the politician — who can’t be named to protect his identity — and even Prior’s sister, showed the accusations weren’t true.

Normally that would result in jail time — as much as five years less a day — but because of Prior’s mentalhealth issues, on July 20 Judge David Orr ordered him to the Waterford Hospital, where the mental-health review board will decide what happens next.

In statements to police in the late 1990s about sexual abuse in his family, Prior alleged there was a coverup to protect the politician, though he admitted to officers then that he had no proof of sexual misconduct or of a coverup. “He simply had a ‘gut feeling,’” according to court documents.

Wanted investigation

He told police he hadn’t made the complaint earlier because he felt the politician had too much influence. He said he wanted the police to uncover evidence in an official investigation.

Police followed up on the case and interviewed Prior’s sister twice. Both times she denied the incident ever happened.

She denied it for a third time before the charges were laid against her brother.

The politician was also interviewed and he denied knowing the girl or Prior at the time the incident was supposed to have happened. He denied anything ever happened with the girl.

He said he became aware of the family because of the allegations levelled against him by Prior.

The court ruled that based on the timelines outlined by Prior, his claims were impossible.

“Mr. Prior has engaged in a campaign to publicize his allegations …,” the decision reads. “In the past, he has made statements about it on the Internet, he has set up a booth on Parliament Hill in Ottawa with signs on it … and has printed and distributed pamphlets to that effect.”

Two assessments

Prior had two separate psychological assessments. One showed he suffers from a delusional disorder. The second said he was depressed and suffers from neurosis as a result of a traumatic childhood, but is not delusional.

“In this case, the accused suffers from a disease of the mind, delusional disorder and had a false belief that deprived him of the capacity to rationally make a choice about the rightness or wrongness of his actions,” Orr wrote. “… A verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is entered.”

Prior remains at the Waterford.