Second fitness test called for arsonist

Defence lawyer James Pennington said it appeared the woman’s mental state had deteriorated

Penticton firefighters inspect the townhouse unit at Cascade Gardens which Leer pleaded guilty to burning. File photo

A woman who pleaded guilty to torching a Penticton fourplex in October has had yet another delay in her court case, this time for a second fitness test to be conducted.

Sydney Leer pleaded guilty to arson early on in the process, after setting a Cascade Gardens fourplex ablaze in mid-October, but several sentencing hearings have been adjourned, largely due to mental health concerns.

Leer has had a fitness test conducted already, along with a “not criminally responsible” test, both of which she passed. But an appearance over video last week, in which Leer appeared doped up, has raised further concerns, with revelations that Leer had not been on any medications, having refused all prescriptions.

Defence lawyer James Pennington noted that in his first meeting with Leer since he took the case last month, Leer appeared cognizant and clear-headed. But in last week’s court date, Leer appeared hazy and slurred her words, prompting Pennington to call for an adjournment.

Pennington had also sought the adjournment to investigate the efficacy of mental health programs in the federal corrections system, drawing concerns from a previous case he had worked on.

This week, yet another delay presented itself in the form of a second fitness test at the request of Pennington, who said it appeared as though Leer’s mental state had deteriorated.

That was corroborated by Crown counsel, who spoke to correctional staff during a break from the courtroom on Monday. Staff reportedly told the Crown lawyer that there were concerns about the mental state of Leer, whom Pennington described as potentially delirious.

Pennington noted that Leer had been having difficulties communicating over the phone system, which required she input her name, as she appeared to believe she had a different name.

He added that it was typically a struggle to get Leer out of her cell.

The next court date is set for July 10, with hopes that the fitness test will be completed at that point.