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Stubborn or mentally ill? Elderly man remains behind bars

All that Webster Nicol needs to do is sign a basic court release document and he can walk out of jail.

But the 70-year-old man won’t sign and so he lingers in a detention cell at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria.

“I refused to sign and I have the right to be released,” Nicol demanded on Monday in Campbell River provincial court.

On March 30, the Victoria resident was arrested in Campbell River. It’s alleged he was driving a stolen vehicle and refused to provide a breath sample to RCMP.

Following his arrest, police were prepared to release him on conditions and a promise to appear in court, but Nicol refused to sign the documents.

That led to an overnight stay at the RCMP detachment and a court appearance the next day.

However, he still wouldn’t sign the papers the next day in court and insisted on being represented by defence lawyer Angie Penhall. She did represent Nicol at another hearing on April 1, where Judge Peter Doherty granted his release, again on the condition he sign the order.

The order instructs Nicol to keep the peace, see a probation officer and to stay away from two residents who live in the same Victoria apartment complex.

“All you have to do is sign,” said Judge Roderick Sutton, urging him to sign again on Monday.

However, in spite of best efforts to get him to sign by police, two judges, the Crown prosecutor and his own lawyer, Nicol has steadfastly refused. He also denies being afflicted by schizophrenia and says he doesn’t take any medication.

However, there are signs he may not be mentally well. During Monday’s hearing by video, Penhall was in the Campbell River courtroom to represent her client, but Nicol did not recognize her.

“This person is an impostor!” he said while looking directly at Penhall. He went on to describe Penhall as 5’11” with curly blonde hair while she is, in fact, several inches shorter and has dark brown hair. Penhall told the judge she has tried, without success, to assist Nicol and asked to be removed from the case.

Prosecutor Adrienne Venturini has “no desire” to keep Nicol locked up, but there’s little she can do if he won’t sign the release document. She also suggested it would benefit to get a proper mental fitness evaluation.

Nicol is charged with possession of property obtained by crime and refusing to provide a breath sample. He called the charges “bogus,” claimed he’s being held against his rights and demanded his unconditional release.

Judge Sutton declined and reiterated the conditions “aren’t very onerous.” Nicol is due back in court, by video, on May 5, to set a trial date. Nicol is the author of “New Light From the Bible,” described on the Amazon website as a personal account of his own religious experiences.

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