Peter Whitmore, 35, of Morinville, Alta., is charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and abduction. ((RCMP/HO/Canadian Press))

Experts in bothlaw and psychologyare expressing skepticism that accused sex offender Peter Whitmore could successfully use pedophilia as a defence.

Whitmore, who is charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and abduction, with the alleged victimsbeing a 10-year-old boy from Saskatchewan and a 14-year-old boy from Manitoba,appeared briefly in courtin Regina Thursday.

He was arrested near Kipling, Sask., last week after a lengthy standoff.

His lawyer, Daniel Brodsky, said pedophilia is clearly a mental disorder and it would be irresponsible to put a mentally ill person in prison.

He also said he may argue Whitmore is not criminally responsible because he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong.

However, Jeff Pfeifer, a psychologist and police consultant in Regina, says if Brodsky attempts this defence, it would be the first of its kind in Canada.

"I don't think anybody has pushed pedophilia into that level yet that it is considered to be a mental disorder which fits under the definition of insanity. That's the novel element of this," he said.

"The previous pleas of insanity or mental incompetence revolve around schizophrenia, for instance, or multiple personality: 'It wasn't me who killed him, it was my other personality.' "

Difference between right and wrong

Pfeifer said those illnesses have been successfully used in Canada and the United States for the past 10 years.

But while pedophilia is a mental illness, a key issue is whether pedophiles know the difference between right and wrong, he said.

Sanjeev Anand, who teaches criminal law at the University of Alberta, said that's where Whitmore's defence may have difficulties.

"It's only those individuals who have mental illnesses that are so extreme as to render them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or knowing the act was wrong," he said.

"That doesn't sound like Mr. Whitmore. A great deal of planning went into what he was doing, he tried to elude police."

Brodsky said his client would benefit from treatment in a psychiatric hospital. In prison, he said, Whitmore would be targeted by other inmates.

Whitmore will be back in court Aug. 24.