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Dangerous offender sentenced to indeterminate detention denied day parole

Gordon Frank Nickerson, who was declared a dangerous offender in 2014, has been denied day parole. - CTV News Photo
Gordon Frank Nickerson, who was declared a dangerous offender in 2014, has been denied day parole. - CTV News Photo - Contributed

KENTVILLE, NS - A Yarmouth man who was declared a dangerous offender in 2014 and sentenced to an indeterminate period of detention has been denied day parole.

Gordon Frank Nickerson, 41, who is a second-time aboriginal federal offender, had his application for day parole reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) at a Jan. 30 hearing.

The board denied Nickerson day parole on Sept. 21, 2017, but Nickerson appealed the decision. The Appeal Division ordered a new panel hearing, finding that the board did not include in its analysis certain required factors. However, on Jan. 30, the board again denied Nickerson day parole.

Nickerson pleaded guilty to all 12 charges against him in April 2012. The Crown made application to the court at that time to have Nickerson declared a dangerous offender.

At a sentencing hearing in September 2014, Judge Alan Tufts said there are four avenues for the Crown to seek a dangerous offender declaration and, if Nickerson met any of those four sets of criteria, the court must find him dangerous. These include a pattern of repetitive behaviour, a pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour, an offence of a brutal nature and failure to control sexual impulses.

In summarizing his written decision, Tufts said he was satisfied “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Nickerson met all four sets of criteria.

Tufts said evidence supports the conclusion that Nickerson constitutes a threat to the safety of others. Nickerson raped and sodomized two Yarmouth area women. The victims were bound with duct tape and held captive for hours.

Nickerson “forced their compliance in countless sexual acts” which were “meant to degrade and belittle” his victims. They were forced into a car and driven to Kings County.

Nickerson raped and sodomized another victim under similar circumstances in 2005 and was sentenced to five years of federal custody. Tufts said Nickerson had learned nothing from the time he spent in jail or the therapy he received.

Tufts said the most relevant evidence was the report and testimony of a forensic psychiatrist who found that Nickerson has a severe personality disorder and is at a moderate to high risk to reoffend. The psychiatrist opined that his assessment “does not prognostically suggest a good outcome for future therapeutic endeavours.”

Nickerson was arrested on Feb. 29, 2012, after fleeing the scene of a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of Commercial Street and Middle Dyke Road in New Minas. He was in the midst of a suicide attempt when he was apprehended. The two women who Nickerson had assaulted and abducted from the Yarmouth area were in the car he was driving.

Nickerson was charged with two counts of kidnapping; two counts of committing sexual assault while carrying an imitation weapon, breaking and entering a house and committing the indictable offence of kidnapping, two counts of committing anal intercourse and breaching a peace bond.

Nickerson was charged also with two counts of assault; dangerous driving and failing to stop after being involved in an accident with the intent of escaping civil or criminal liability in New Minas.

Nickerson’s victims submitted victim impact statements describing the traumatic effects and significant psychological harm caused by the crimes. According to a written decision from the PBC, the victims suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have been unable to work and, in one case, a victim has subsequently lost her home.

A 2017 psychological risk assessment of Nickerson identified a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) along with narcissistic and antisocial traits. His BPD presents with a pattern of instability within interpersonal relationships, self-image, and is “marred with impulsivity commencing in early adulthood.”

The report describes Nickerson as wanting to exact revenge for being mistreated. He explained that his motive was not sexual gratification but inflicting emotional pain and trauma on his victims.

Nickerson stated to the therapist that he was “not ready for release.” The report further concluded that it’s uncertain if Nickerson will be able to manage his risk factors in the community and how he will react to future intimate relationships.

The assessment concluded that Nickerson’s overall nominal risk category for violent and sexual recidivism currently falls into the moderate range while his risk for violence against an intimate partner is in the high range. The therapist viewed Nickerson’s release as being premature.

An addendum to file information completed in August 2017 indicates that Nickerson refused to sign a Procedural Safeguard Declaration, indicating that he was not obliged to sign the form. Nickerson indicated that he would no longer work with his case management team. Nickerson refused to attend a scheduled appointment with his parole officer around the same time. Nickerson provided an inmate request form indicating his self-removal from his correctional plan.

Another addendum to file information indicates that in October 2017, an ongoing information technology security investigation revealed that Nickerson had been involved in breaching the security of offender computers. Additional information indicated that Nickerson had compromised a staff member by manipulating him to access websites.

Nickerson was admitted to administrative segregation and was involuntarily transferred to a maximum-security institution. The written decision states that Nickerson’s behaviour has not been a cause for concern since his admission to the maximum-security facility.

In discussing his current offences, Nickerson disagreed that they were more severe than his prior sex offences, in spite of there being two victims. With respect to having been accused of alleged sexual offences by former partners, Nickerson stated that this hurt him. He went on to state that in spite of his dangerous offender designation, be doesn’t believe that he is a danger.

Nickerson indicated that a recommended special condition to follow a treatment plan in the area of psychological counselling and correctional programming would only be followed if it contained aboriginal content or interventions. He also discounted the findings of the therapist who completed a psychological assessment for the purposes of his trial.

According to the PBC decision, in his final comments, Nickerson spoke of how risk is a funny thing, that actuarial measures are not a good assessment of risk – in Nickerson’s opinion – and that the calculation of risk is a “crapshoot.” As Nickerson explained, if he has a 70 per cent chance of reoffending, that means he has a 30 per cent chance he will not reoffend, so he questioned how the board could assess which category he would be in.

The board noted that Nickerson does not have a plan for release at this time.

“The board is satisfied that given your lack of insight, your assessed risk for reoffending and the serious and violent offences you are capable of committing; your plan for day parole is not sufficient for the risk that you present,” the PBC decision states.

Click here for a story on Nickerson’s sentencing hearing.

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