On Friday 5th January 2018 Miss ‘Yugge’ Farrell appeared before the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court charged with the offence of Insulting Language. According to the procedure, the charge was read and a plea of not guilty was entered which the Magistrate accepted.
The Prosecution then made an application for the Magistrate to commit Ms Farrell to The Mental Health Centre for observation. Whilst the SVG Human Rights Association is cognizant that either party (the defence or the prosecution) can make such an application, we are concerned as to what transpired in the Courtroom to warrant such.
There was no evidence proffered as far as we are aware, that would have warranted such an application. Furthermore, we were reliably informed, that there was no behaviour that would have prompted the learned Trial Magistrate acting upon his own volition to exercise his discretion in committing Ms Farrell to the Mental Health Centre.
Ms Farrell, like all Vincentians, has fundamental rights and freedoms. We are of the opinion that her fundamental rights and freedoms were infringed and continue so to be.
By way of letter dated January 15th, 2018, The SVG Human Rights Association wrote to the Permanent Secretary in The Ministry of Health Wellness and The Environment, seeking permission to visit with Ms Farrell.
The Organization contacted Mr Knights who informed us that our request was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Chambers. To date, our request has gone unheeded.
On Monday 22nd January 2018, some members of SVG Human Rights Association attended the hearing. We observed that Ms Farrell appeared as someone who was in an altered state. This was confirmed when her Lawyer told the court that Ms Farrell was being administered medication.
The Mental Health Centre, as far as we are aware, does not have on its current staff a resident Psychiatrist or Psychologist.
It, therefore, begs the question as to the validity of the observation report and the treatment. Having diagnosed Ms Farrell with a mental illness, did the doctors consult with a parent, guardian or next of kin before administering drugs?
We strongly urge that the Mental Health Act be reviewed to be compliant with the International norms and standards.
The SVG Human Rights Association is cognizant of the comments made publicly by the Minister of Legal Affairs the Hon Ralph E Gonsalves.
We strongly condemn the running commentary as this matter is Sub Judice and he ought to know what the correct procedures are as he was a practising Barrister. Justice must be done and also seen to be done.
We call on the Hon. Prime Minister to immediately desist from using the media as a means of trying this matter in a public forum.
The SVG HRA wishes to emphasize that we are an independent Civil Society Organization that speaks to a specific mission, vision and was operational since 1986.
A further update will be issued on Monday 29th January 2018.
Samantha Robertson (Ms)