Penticton arsonist to undergo fitness assessment

The woman who burned four townhouse units is getting a further mental fitness assesment

A Penticton arsonist is having her mental fitness assessed after asking for a new lawyer at the end of her sentencing.

The sentencing hearing on March 6 for 18-year-old Sydney Leer, facing up to five years in jail after pleading guilty to arson, came to a screeching halt when she asked for a new lawyer near the end of the proceedings.

Read more: Mom of accused arsonist angry with doctor who discharged her

Leer’s counsel, Norman Yates, put forward an application to have himself removed from the record as her representative on March 17 in Penticton Provincial Court.

“I understand the serious implications for getting off the record from both the Law Society’s perspective and the court’s perspective,” Yates said. “It’s apparent she has lost confidence in me, in my ability to represent her and I’m unable to take instructions from her beyond that.”

Leer, appearing via video, interjected.

“You want to switch spots or something? Cause I could do your job better than you right now, like, really?” Leer said.

Yates put forward concerns regarding comments Leer made at the March 6 sentencing. Leer had previously made bizarre comments during the sentencing regarding someone who told her to start the fire that caused $1.1 million in damages, displacing multiple residents of the complex.

Read more: Community steps up for families affected by blaze

“(She made comments) that she didn’t feel she was in control when she lit the fire,” Yates said.

She voluntarily went to the Lower Mainland after her arrest for consideration of a NCRMD (not criminally responsible due to the reason of a mental disorder) assessment.

“I think (NCRMD) has been thoroughly canvassed, however, because of some of Ms. Leer’s comments to the court on March 6, and some things that have come my attention since, she may not understand the other part, which is the roles of the various players,” Yates said.

Read More: Penticton townhouse fire being called an arson

Judge Greg Koturbash asked Leer if she understood his role in the process and that of Crown and her defence counsels. Leer responded “no,” to all three. Koturbash expressed concern she had regressed since her psychological assessment.

The doctor who compiled the psychological report diagnosed Leer with borderline personality disorder. The report said Leer is known to demonstrate high impulsively, aggression and borderline psychotic behavior. She was also found mentally fit to stand trial.

Read more: Psych evaluation ordered for accused

Koturbash encouraged Yates to remain on the record until Leer’s mental fitness could be determined.

“If her illness has deteriorated since she has been in custody, it may be the illness that is motivating the lack of confidence so to speak,” Koturbash said.

A fitness assessment was ordered, with the matter returning to the Judicial Case Manager on the week of April 5 to schedule a date to hear the results of that assessment.

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