There are many things we know about Harold J. Farr.
He’s 52, is dying of Huntington’s disease and, during a four-year period, he defrauded the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) out of more than $50,000.
What we don’t know — and what the judge must determine — is whether or not his disease drove him to do it.
At provincial court in St. John’s Friday, lawyers argued whether Section 16 of the Criminal Code of Canada should or shouldn’t apply to Farr.
Section 16 states that an offender is not criminally responsible for committing a crime if he suffers from a mental disorder that renders him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or knowing it was wrong.
“He didn’t commit the offences with criminal intent,” defence lawyer Robert Regular said.
Farr was diagnosed in 1994 with Huntington’s disease — an incurable, hereditary neurological disorder which causes cells in a specific part of the brain to deteriorate.
Symptoms include obsessive behaviour, aggressiveness and uncontrollable impulses — affecting a person’s abilities to think and reason.
Farr didn’t begin receiving treatment until October 2010.
He committed the frauds between November 2004 and July 2008, while working in a supervisory position at CRA.
He reset employees’ passwords to gain access to the CRA’s computer systems. Once he gained access, he falsified information for financial gain.
He made changes to income tax returns for himself, his wife, his father and his niece by increasing information about RRSP contributions, reports for personal income, net business income, medical expenses, spousal claims, charitable donations and child care expenses.
He faces more than two dozen fraud-related charges.
Farr has never denied what he did.
Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, who has been treating Farr since October 2010, testified that while Farr may have known he was committing a crime, he had no control to stop himself.
Mirolo said before he was treated, Farr had been showing symptoms of aggressiveness — challenging a car salesman three times his size to a fight — and impulsiveness — buying several dogs and hundreds of curling irons.
Mirolo explained to the court, at the time, Farr’s judgment and ability to make reasonable decisions were impaired by the disease.
In his final arguments, Regular reiterated the doctor’s assessment. He said Section 16 applies to Farr because, with his neuropsychiatric condition, he lost the capacity to appreciate the nature of what he did.
“For a normal person, you can think about (committing a crime) and contemplate that maybe you shouldn’t do it, but that’s what’s different,” Regular said.
“Mr. Farr gets to a point where it comes into his mind, he gets on a treadmill and it winds him up and winds him up until it’s impossible to stop.”
He said the manifestation of his disease is proven in the fact that Farr worked at CRA for 28 years before.
“That’s an indication something changed (within him),” he said.
Halifax Crown prosecutor Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu acknow-ledged it is a tragic case with unique circumstances.
However, he pointed out Farr’s crime took a degree of planning and effort to hide what he did.
“He said (after charges were laid), ‘I knew what I was doing was wrong.’ That shows a camouflage and to do that, you have to be knowledgeable to some degree.”
The case will be back in court May 31, at which time Judge Colin Flynn plans to update lawyers on his progress in reviewing the information.
With a busy court schedule, the judge expects to have a final decision made before the end of June.
Whatever the verdict, Farr has a difficult road ahead of him. His illness casts an aura of sadness over the case.
Throughout the two-day trial, the small-statured man sat quietly, while family members, including his wife and daughter, sat behind him in the courtroom.