Former Dartmouth North MLA Trevor Zinck believes a condition called "compassion fatigue" may have played a role in his decision to file fraudulent expense claims.

Zinck thinks he may have developed the condition as the result of his advocacy work with constituents.

He was asked why this condition he believes he suffers from has only come up now.

"You know what, it’s not malarkey and if you go on the websites and you check it, go in and type ‘compassion fatigue,’ you’ll know exactly why it's just coming out now. Because part of the diagnosis is that you put off taking care of yourself," said Zinck.

In Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Glen McDougall gave Zinck a deadline of Sept. 6 to submit an expert's opinion on the matter.

Zinck has pleaded guilty to fraud and breach of trust for filing more than $10,000 of MLA expense claims for charity donations and sponsorships he never made.

His sentencing hearing has already been delayed as he seeks a psychological assessment and counselling.

Zinck's lawyer Lyle Howe said he's not aware if 'compassion fatigue' has ever been raised in court before.

"I can’t tell you what it is, I’m not an expert. It’s something that Trevor feels like is relevant and the he wants to explore with an expert," said Howe.

Zinck insists it's a legitimate issue to raise before he's sentenced.

"Compassion fatigue is fairly new to a lot of psychotherapists here, a lot of them don’t practice and that’s been part of the frustration over the last week is trying to get someone who’s actually practicing compassion fatigue training," he said.

"Compassion fatigue can take place across many different sectors. Judges can be prone to it, lawyers can be prone to it — anybody that’s in a caregiver situation, police, child welfare workers. If anyone knows the type of work that I’ve done over the last seven years, and in particular the community of Dartmouth North, most politicians will tell you I’m a constituency guy. and a constituency [politician] is someone who is very hands on."

Zinck needs rehabilitation, not jail time, says lawyer

Howe said he doesn’t know what his client’s sentence will be but said he doesn’t believe that Zinck should serve jail time.

"I think that a part of the focus here need to be rehabilitation. If we have a man who has a pre-sentence report that says, ‘There are some underlying issues here and he should seek counselling’ — one of the principles of sentencing … is that we seek to rehabilitate offenders," said Howe.

"So, obviously, sending someone to jail, in my opinion in these circumstances is not going to rehabilitate Mr. Zinck, it’s not going to help society."

Zinck pleaded guilty in June to fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust for accepting about $9,000 from the Speaker's Office to cover constituency expenses in 2008 and 2009, even though he didn't pay those owed money.

Zinck, who sat as an Independent, initially refused to quit politics following his guilty plea but  resigned after the Speaker announced the legislature would be recalled to deal with his possible expulsion.

Three other former politicians have also pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges that stemmed from a 2010 investigation by the province's auditor general into constituency allowance spending

Zinck said despite everything that has happened, he still plans on running in the next provincial election.

"You know there are people in Dartmouth North that still believe there was a mistake that was made. I’ve paid back the money but there’s still some value in the service that I offer to them and to the community," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press