Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Court lifts dangerous-offender status of woman branded 'psychopath'
Former prostitute's actions didn't justify indefinite sentence
EDMONTON The former child prostitute branded evil, sadistic and a "dangerous psychopath" by psychiatrists is no longer Canada's only female dangerous offender.
Alberta's Court of Appeal removed the designation from Lisa Neve yesterday. Neve, 26, who once pleaded "I am not a monster," finally found a court that agreed. It took the court more than 15 months to make its ruling.
"Neve is a criminal, but the totality of the circumstances here do not warrant a dangerous-offender designation at this stage in her life," said the ruling, written by a three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Catherine Fraser.
A convict who has been declared a dangerous offender can be jailed indefinitely.
Neve, who has served time in Edmonton and Prince Albert jails, has been in custody at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, a minimum-security prison in Maple Creek, Sask.
The panel ruled that she was wrongly branded dangerous in the original 1994 hearing because Justice Alec Murray placed weight on material that was mostly irrelevant to the dangerous-offender designation.
The Crown originally moved to have Neve designated a dangerous offender after a robbery in which she and an accomplice drove another prostitute out of Edmonton, stripped her naked and left her to fend for herself.
Neve also made a death threat against an Edmonton lawyer who cross-examined her in a criminal trial. The lawyer, Sterling Sanderman, is now a Court of Queen's Bench judge.
Neve's juvenile and adult criminal record included other convictions for uttering threats, unlawful confinement and theft.
But Neve's advocates felt it was always her mouth that got her in the most trouble.
See DANGEROUS on Page A10
Her stories were worse than her actions: panel
Police testified at her dangerous-offender hearing that she boasted about her talent for spilling blood, though her record was not particularly violent.
Another example was the diary Neve kept when she was in juvenile detention, also cited in the original ruling. The diary contained fantastic entries about mass murder and burning babies. Neve always claimed it was hyperbole, designed to keep social workers at bay.
But psychiatrists used the diary and other statements by the former street hooker to come up with a damning appraisal of her character, describing her variously as a sociopath and incorrigible.
One Crown psychiatrist, Dr. Pierre Flor-Henry, described Neve as "the female equivalent of a male lust murderer."
The appeal court was clearly unhappy with Dr. Flor-Henry's testimony, saying there was one key difference between Neve and lust murderers.
"Lust murderers have translated their actions into murder," wrote the appeal panel. "Neve has murdered no one."
The panel found Neve's diary entries and other flights of fancy to be irrelevant to a dangerous-offender designation. "The dangerous-offender legislation is designed to capture dangerous offenders, not dangerous thinkers," wrote the panel.
The court questioned why much of the prejudicial testimony about Neve's supposed fascination with murder was accepted, given the fact there was no evidence these murders had ever taken place.
It also accepted a defence argument that was rejected at the original hearing, that Neve was at least in part a product of her violent street environment.
It concluded by saying the key to a dangerous-offender designation is evidence of a pattern of violent behaviour that, when weighed, allows the court to predict a similar future pattern.
No such pattern existed in Neve's criminal record, which contained no examples of extreme violence.
"When her actual criminal record is parsed out from her thoughts and fantasies, what we have is a young woman with a relatively short criminal record for violence, disposed to telling shocking stories of violence," said the panel.
Neve's lawyer, Brian Beresh, said it is not yet clear when Neve will be released. His calculation of the sentence is that she should be free now.
He will be informed by corrections officials today and pass on the news to Neve, who he says has had sufficient counselling to make the transition back into society.
Created: June 30, 1999
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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