Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Ralph Gonsalves has commented on the circumstances in which a police officer or the court can have someone admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Gonsalves’ comment came Tuesday morning on WE FM, amidst the ongoing discussion since last Friday surrounding the decision of the Magistrate Bertie Pompey to send former model Yugge Farrell for two weeks’ psychiatric evaluation.
Pompey’s decision at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court came after Farrell, 22, of Lowmans Bay, pleaded not guilty to a charge that she used abusive language, to wit, “you dirty b***h” to Karen Duncan-Gonsalves on Jan. 4.
Duncan-Gonsalves is wife of Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves and the prime minister’s daughter-in-law.
Gonsalves said the law sets out the framework to address the issue of mental health.
“And in terms of admitting persons to the psychiatric hospital, the law makes a distinction between voluntary patients — patients who go in voluntarily… medically recommended patients, … persons at large, … and an admission to the psychiatric hospital following an order made by the court,” the prime minister said.
Reading from the law, Gonsalves said: “Any person found wandering at large on a highway or in any public place and who by reason of his appearance, conduct, or conversation causes a police officer to believe that such a person is suffering from mental disorder, that police officer may take that person into custody and convey the person to a psychiatric hospital or a psychiatric ward.”
The law further said that when a person is taken into custody under such circumstances, their relatives, if known, must be informed of the custody and psychiatric hospital or ward to which the person has been conveyed, Gonsalves said.
Regarding the section that deals with admission to a psychiatric hospital on orders of the court, Gonsalves said that where a court has ordered that a person charged before it who appears to be incapable of making his defence be detained for report, he shall be admitted to a psychiatric hospital and detailed therein.
“I am not talking about any particular case, eh? It’s just that, given the discussion, I think it is important that person appreciate what is the law,” Gonsalves said.
The law further said that the psychiatric hospital director, shall, as soon as practicable after admitting a patient under this subjection, make an examination as he considers necessary for determining whether the person is suffering from a mental disorder and in need of care or treatment and shall, within 21 days, submit a report to the court in writing as to the medical condition of the patient.
Gonsalves said that when the report is received from the court, the court may rescind the order and put the person on their defence.
The court may also order that the person remain in the hospital for such care and treatment, as the psychiatric hospital director considers necessary.
“So, there are provisions which everybody has to follow,” the prime minister said.
“I think the discussion is germane in respect of what I have read there, one, to show you what a court can do, and, to show you even what a policeman can do.”
Many persons have expressed surprise at the fact that the magistrate agreed to send Farrell for psychiatric evaluation without anyone in the Court having presented evidence to support their application.
The prime minister said he has his views about how court should proceed when dealing with this matter.
He, however, said he didn’t want to talk about them at that time because he had a meeting to attend.
“But I raise it because I was waiting over the last few days for some lawyer to come and talk about this thing. So I finally decided that I must make reference to these sections.”