By Kenton X. Chance
Whatever her mental state, one thing seemed to have been clear to her at the end of the proceedings on Monday during which the court heard arguments about whether to accept a report saying that model Yugge Farrell is unfit for trial.
The model was apparently disturbed by the decision of the court that she is to spend a third consecutive week at the psychiatric hospital.
“What?” Farrell shouted from the witness stand when Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett announced that she is to remain warded at the Mental Health Centre until next Monday, Jan. 29, when he gives his decision.
“What?” she shouted when Burnett confirmed his decision amidst an inquiry by defence counsel Grant Connell, who has been representing the woman pro bono since her Jan. 4 arraignment on an abusive language charge.
Burnett is the second Kingstown Magistrate to commit the woman to the Mental Health Centre since Jan. 5.
Burnett, who was sitting on his first day as Kingstown Magistrate, a post he took over from Bertie Pompey, heard arguments from Connell as well as Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams, about the course of action that the court should take in light of a report that Farrell is unfit for trial.
Yugge Farrell gestures as she leaves the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Friday, Jan. 5. The Yugge Farrell who appeared in court on Monday Jan. 22, seemed a totally different person. (iWN photo)On Jan. 5, Farrell was arraigned on a charge that on Jan. 4 at Kingstown, she used abusive language, to wit, “you dirty b***h” at Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, wife of Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, who is son of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
Since her hospitalisation, a number of videos have appeared on the internet in which Farrell, 22, of Lowmans Bay, has made a number of allegations, including that she was involved in a sexual relationship with Camillo, 44, which ended in 2016.
Farrell pleaded not guilty to the abusive language charge when Pompey put it to her at the Kingstown Magistrate Court on Jan. 4.
Her lawyer made an application for bail and then, prosecutor, Police Constable Corlene Samuel, objected, and made an application for the accused woman to be sent for two weeks of psychiatric evaluation.
Pompey granted the prosecution’s request although the Crown presented to the court no arguments in support of its application and amidst strong protest by the defence counsel.
Camillo’s wife a no-show in court
When the matter was called before Burnett at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Monday, the DPP and Connell both congratulated the magistrate on his elevation to the post of senior magistrate.
As Connell was formerly restating his appearance on behalf of Farrell, the accused woman was still sitting in the prisoners’ section of the court and the magistrate told the court orderlies to “put the defendant where she ought to be, please”.
A court orderly, then said, “Yugge” and the accused woman let out a short howl-like sound and said, “The defendant?” as she made her way to the dock.
The magistrate then told the court that he had received the report and had shared a copy with the DPP a while earlier.
Connell then asked the DPP to address the court on the matter.
The DPP told the court that he noted the content of the report.
At this point, the senior magistrate asked the DPP to hold on and asked that the complainant — Duncan-Gonsalves — be called to the stand.
However, there was no appearance of Duncan-Gonsalves and at that point, Farrell laughed.
Williams then said that in relation to the report, he was noting Section 7 of the Mental Health Act and also wanted to address his mind to the sub-sections that speak to the options open to the court upon receipt of the report.
“I don’t think that based on the specific nature of the report that 4(a) may be applicable but rather, we may have to look at 4(b),” Williams said, adding that that is the assistance with which he would like to provide the court.
Section 7, subsection 4(a) of the Mental Health Act says that on receipt of a report, the court may rescind the hospitalisation order if it is of the opinion that the person is capable of making his defence.
However, Section 7, subsection 4(a) of the same law says that the court “may … make an order that the person remain in the hospital for such further care and treatment as the psychiatric hospital director considers necessary”.
New magistrate not an appellate court
Connell then told the court that the defence has two submissions.
He said that at the Jan. 5 hearing, Magistrate Pompey had made an order.
“This was after a plea was entered — a plea of not guilty. A bail application was made. Objection to the bail application was made, and the request for a report. I think that bail application was somewhat lost when that application was made.
“There was nothing else presented to the court to guide the learned magistrate in the making of his order. So, today, the purpose of that report, certainly, is not for the purposes of the court, because a plea has already been entered.
“So, if the report is for the purpose of the court to see if she is fit to plea — to do that which she has already done — we are somewhat jumping the hurdle to get to section 7, as to the admission of the report that is before you.”
Connell said that Burnett, as the new magistrate in the matter, “cannot act as an appellate court to override what your friend has already done, to correct that legal injury”.
Who gave Farrell medication?
On the second point of his submission, Connell raised questions about what might have happened to his client during the last days of her hospitalisation.
“I had various occasions to visit Yugge Farrell, three or four occasions at the psychiatric hospital — as they aptly refer to it as — and on not one occasion of those four she exhibited any attributes that she exhibited today. None!
“I have recordings which I ask the honourable court to set up the necessary accoutrements so that we can see for ourselves.”
Connell further said that medical doctor, Sonasree Jammulapati — who, he said he understands from a Facebook page in her name, is the Registrar in Psychiatry at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital — signed the report submitted to the court.
He noted, however, that the doctor had signed the document in her capacity as District Medical Officer at the Mental Health Centre
“I respectfully submit that Dr. Sonasree — Dr. Sona as she is known — … she is not a psychiatrist.
“We are aware of the efforts of the powers that be to seek the services of a psychiatrist,” Connell said, adding that he was last informed that Dr. Belle from Barbados was supposed to visit the country about four times a month.
“But this is not a report by a psychiatrist, Connell said.
“So I humbly submit that given the magnitude and the ramifications of this application on this young lady, with greatest respect to Dr. Sona, it would not suffice.”
He said that up to last Thursday, when he saw his client, she was not behaving as she did in court on that day.
The lawyer said that his client had been given antipsychotic drugs notwithstanding his advice that she not be given any medication.
The section of the Mental Health Act under which Farrell was admitted to the psychiatric hospital does not speak to treatment of any mental health condition.
Rather, it says, “The psychiatric hospital director shall, as soon as practicable after admitting a patient under subsection (1), make such examination as he considers necessary for determining whether or not the person is suffering from a mental health disorder and in need of care and treatment, and he shall within 21 days submit a report to the court in writing as to the medical condition of the patient.”
Connell said that his client was administered Risperidone and Lithium — two antipsychotic drugs — which Connell said “have certain effects, which, from what I saw transpired before Magistrate Pompey, this appears to be the second link to appear as that which she is not”.
When Farrell appeared in court on Jan. 5, she sat quietly while waiting for her arraignment and maintained the same disposition during her arraignment.
She did not make any of the sounds that she made in court on Monday, after spending two weeks at the psychiatric hospital.
Drugs.com says that risperidone is an antipsychotic medicine that works by changing the effects of chemicals in the brain.
Risperidone is used to treat schizophrenia in adults and children who are at least 13 years old and to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder (manic depression) in adults and children who are at least 10 years old.
Risperidone is also used to treat symptoms of irritability in autistic children who are 5 to 16 years old.
Risperidone’s side effects include uncontrolled muscle movements in the face (chewing, lip smacking, frowning, tongue movement, blinking or eye movement).
The same website says that lithium affects the flow of sodium through nerve and muscle cells in the body. Sodium affects excitation or mania.
Lithium is used to treat the manic episodes of bipolar disorder. Symptoms include hyperactivity, rushed speech, poor judgment, reduced need for sleep, aggression, and anger. Lithium also helps to prevent or lessen the intensity of manic episodes.
‘Reject the report’
Connell asked the court not to accept the report and to request a report from a psychiatrist, which, he said, the defence could provide.
“The state coffers, I don’t want to stretch anymore and we can contact a psychiatrist and have the defendant evaluated,” he said.
The lawyer said Farrell was hospitalised at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on Feb. 8, 2017.
He said it appears, from his findings, that the attending physicians –Dr. Browne-Caesar and Dr. Providence — ordered that intravenous fluids were given to Farrell, because she was dehydrated.
“… and within 48 hours, [she was] treated with Olanzapine, antipsychotic medication that affects the chemicals in the brain, and released as an outpatient on that strength of drug,” Connell said.
He said that now, the DPP was asking for an order of the court “to support the further detention of this young lady in an institution that is not equipped to deal with anyone with the allegation of some mental instability.
“New tiles and new roof and new windows do not make it an appropriate institution. Maybe physically,” he said of the Mental Health Centre, which was recently renovated.
Connell asked the court to consider his submissions and let Farrell be examined by a psychiatrist.”
Defendant must understand proceedings
In response, however, Williams said that if Connell had spent some time reviewing the literature in relation to matters of that nature, he would have noted that the textbook, Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure, says that the defendant must be fit to plea.
If the defendant is incapacitated, it is apparent, that he would not be able to give full instruction or appreciate the consequences of a particular plea. The defendant is expected to understand what transpires at his trial, Williams said, reading from the text.
“So, even if he is represented by counsel and he is not fit to plea, the trial may be a nullity.”
Williams, citing the book, further said that in a summary trial, there is no separation of the issues and it is generally inappropriate for a magistrate to hold a trial within a trial.
However, the practice is that if there are doubts about the defendant’s fitness, the court may, in the interest of fairness, direct that he be medically examined, even without specific provision permitting this, Williams said.
The DPP further cited the literature as saying that it seems to be entirely within the magistrate’s discretion to do so in accordance with the principles of natural justice, etc.
“So, in essence, that is a non-issue in terms of whether or not the person has pleaded. In essence, what we are here to address, your honour, is the appropriate course of action…”
He further said that the Evidence Act of St. Vincent and the Grenadines permits the tendering of any document by a registered medical practitioner within the state and that document is proof of what it contains.
The DPP said that the Crown has no objection to the defendant being examined by a psychiatrist provided by the defence.
“There’s never been any issue in relation to that, in any matter I know, where the Crown is making an allegation or there is a concern — because we are not even making an allegation — where there is a concern.
“The defence is always at liberty to bring in an expert, whether it is firearms, whether it is narcotics, whether it is a test of the person’s capacity, they are always free to provide an alternative report. That is nothing that should be troubling.”
Law doesn’t demand psychiatrist
The DPP further said that he had searched the legislation “to see where there was this reference to particulars about a psychiatrist, because I see none. And to the best of my knowledge, I have been practising now for more than two decades in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the first time we had psychiatrist here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was sometime in the 2000s when Amrie Morris-Patterson joined the staff”.
The DPP said that before then, SVG never had a “psychiatrist, quote-unquote” operating.
“The law provides for a medical personnel. There are medical personnel who are trained, who have qualifications in psychiatry. As good and faithful as Dr. Debnath was in serving us, Dr. Debnath was not a psychiatrist. That does not mean that he was unable or in any way deficient in being able to serve the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He did so and he did so faithfully and well.”
Williams said that Morris Patterson is in SVG and is available.
Different eras; different practices?
Connell then rose and said he wanted to clarify one thing.
“My friend seems to be from the same era of a practicing lawyer that thinks it is fine that a magistrate can get information not given in open court,” Connell said.
His comments were in an apparent reference to a statement by Prime Minister Gonsalves, that a magistrate can consider, in arriving at his decision to commit someone to a psychiatric hospital, information given to the magistrate by the prosecution and not communicated to the accused person or their counsel.
“Not because the act said the psychiatric hospital director and a caveat and an act is wide open for possible abuse, that does not make it right and those who have practised for 20 years and have seen this need for change and have not done it…”
He said that the act does not say psychiatrist.
“But what is the difference between the general hospital and the psychiatric hospital? It’s a psychiatrist… Doctor, doctor, doctors everywhere.”
Connell submitted to the court that since Farrell was treated and discharged as an outpatient within 48 hours in 2017, she could be granted bail and be able to seek assistance on her own.
“There is no need to go back to that institution,” he said, referring to the Mental Health Centre.
Decision in one week
The magistrate, in response, noted that Farrell was sent to the Mental Health Centre by an order of the court and that has to remain.
At this point, Connell rose and asked for clarity and asked exactly what the order was that Pompey had made.
“You would appreciate that that order was not made by me,” the magistrate said.
Connell suggested that it would be on the back of the court document and asked for the benefit of the court’s notes.
“I can just read what is at the back of the document before me, the magistrate said: ‘Committed to the Mental Health Centre for two weeks’ observation and report to be submitted to this court.’”
The magistrate said he is in receipt of the report and has listened to the submissions and that it is for him to make a ruling on the submissions.
At this point, Connell pointed out to the court that the doctor was present and that the defence would like to ask her some questions.
But the magistrate said he has to rule first on the submissions, adding that depending on the ruling, there may or may not be a ruling to call the doctor.
The magistrate, however, said he would like some time to consider the legal arguments and postponed his decision until next Monday.
He said that in the interim, Farrell has to go back to the mental Health Centre.
“What?” Farrell shouted.