By Kenton X. Chance
The mother and sister of embattled model, Yugge Farrell, have asked lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste to act on their behalf “to look after her human rights and mental health issues”.
Bacchus-Baptiste made this disclosure to iWitness News on Saturday, saying that she cannot confirm that she would replace Grant Connell as counsel for Farrell in the matter.
“I have sent certain submissions to the magistrate because I think that Grant submissions were — well, I think they could have been augmented, which is what I said to him. So I sent certain further submissions on the facts of the medical report that was given,” Bacchus Baptiste told iWitness News on Saturday.
She, however, could not say definitively that she will replace Connell, who has acted without pay on Farrell’s behalf since her Jan. 5 arraignment at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court before then Kingstown Magistrate Bertie Pompey.
“Grant said he was going to withdraw but the way things are, I cannot confirm that. He told me he was going to withdraw because I told him the family had engaged me. But [due to] subsequent actions from him, I cannot accept that he has withdrawn.
“What I know is that I am acting on behalf of the sister and the mother to look after her human rights and mental health issues. Until I see what he does on Monday, then I’d be able to say that,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
Connell has been representing Farrell pro bono since her arraignment on Jan. 5 on a charge that the previous day in Kingstown, she called Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, wife of Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, “a dirty b***h”.
Farrell, a 23-year-old (previous reports said she was 22) resident of Lowmans Bay pleaded not guilty to the charge and the prosecution asked then presiding magistrate, Bertie Pompey, to send her for two weeks of psychiatric evaluation.
The magistrate granted the application although the crown presented no evidence in support of its application and amidst strong objection by Connell.
Many have praised Connell for standing up for Farrell at a time when she needed an attorney most, but over the past week, there have been increasing criticisms from some sections of social media of the lawyer’s handling of the case.
Some persons have questioned, among other things, why he had not applied for judicial review of the matter.
Asked if it has been true that she has been critical, professionally, of Connell’s handling of the case, Bacchus-Baptiste said:
“Listen, Grant is my friend. I will refrain, I even went on the radio and defend Grant when Ralph attacked him and Ralph did not defend himself.”
She was speaking in apparent reference to comments that the prime minister, also a lawyer, made saying that Connell should join him for a cup of coffee and he would point to him what he could have done differently to act in the interest of his client.
Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News that she has personally told Connell what she thought he did wrong in the matter.
“I prepared certain submissions and I called Grant. I said, ‘Grant, I think you need to do these additional submissions’, but he did not answer me,” said Bacchus-Baptiste who has worked along with Connell on criminal matters in the past.
“Eventually, I gave him a copy of them, which I sent to the magistrate, so I really tried. Even when you look at Anselm [Clouden], you would see what he said should have been done, which is what I said,” she said of an interview the high-profile Grenadian counsel did with Vincentian journalist Jerry S. George on matters relating to the case against Farrell and her treatment by the judicial system.
“I just refrain, because Grant is my friend, from openly criticising the way it was handled. I refrain,” Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News.
Amidst the on-going criticisms from some quarters, some persons have also asked questions about what actions, if any, he took last September, when Camillo said on Boom FM, when Grant was on as a guest, that he would like a mental health rather than prosecutorial resolution to what he presented as Farrell’s fixation with him and his family.
Since Farrell’s hospitalisation, videos have appeared on the internet in which Farrell says that she had a sexual relationship with Camillo, which ended in 2016.
The former model’s parents, Gailene Farrell and Calvert Charles, also of Lowmans Bay, have told the media that they had heard of the relationship.
Gailene told iWitness News last week that she discussed the alleged relationship with Camillo’s father, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves last year, but the prime minister has denied this, although he said he met with the woman who had approached him about a job for her daughter.
Amidst widespread local and regional discussion of the matter, Camillo has remained silent on the allegations made against him, apparently taking the advice of the prime minister to maintain “a dignified silence” and not say anything as yet.
When Farrell reappeared in court last week Monday, Jan. 22, before the new Kingstown Magistrate, Rickie Burnett, the court was presented with a report saying that she is not fit to stand trial.
The Director of Public Prosecutions argued that she be re-committed to the Mental Health Centre for further treatment, in keeping with the Mental Health Act.
However, Connell questioned the qualification of the doctor who prepared and signed the report and argued that his client be granted bail and be allowed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a psychiatrist retained by the prosecution.
He further told the court that his client had been given anti-psychotic medication at the Mental Health Centre. The Mental Health Act, under which Farrell was ordered to remain at the psychiatric hospital, does not speak to giving drugs to a person sent there by court order for evaluation.
The magistrate is scheduled to give his ruling on Monday amidst mounting calls by Connell and members of the public to have the DPP discontinue the charge against Farrell, who many feel has been a victim of undue process and abuse of the judicial system.
Bacchus Baptiste told iWitness News on Thursday that she has contacted a psychiatrist from Trinidad and had sent to Connell all the information on the doctor and he agreed that the doctor would examine Farrell.
The doctor was supposed to arrive on Saturday, “but with all whatever went on, I decided to have her come in tomorrow (Sunday), DV, instead, so that she can examine Yugge on Monday. That’s the position so far.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said she has been having “this back and forth with Grant, so I honestly don’t know where he stands”.
Now, the psychiatrist, who is scheduled to arrive in St. Vincent Sunday night, would examine Farrell on Monday after her court appearance.
But even as Farrell’s mother and sister have retained Bacchus-Baptiste, the lawyer, who is also a politician with the main opposition New Democratic Party, will not be in court for Monday’s proceedings, which Connell had suggested he would ask be held in camera because of the “circus” that has developed.
Rather, Bacchus-Baptiste would be attending her first meeting of Parliament since being appointed an opposition senator late last year.
During Monday’s meeting of Parliament, Camillo is scheduled to ask lawmakers to approve the first Estimates of Income and Expenditure produced by the Ministry of Finance under his leadership.
Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News that she has asked nonagenarian veteran attorney Bayliss Frederick to represent on her behalf at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
She said that Frederick would present those submissions and ask for Farrell to be examined by the doctor that has been brought in.
Bacchus-Baptiste said the doctor “is a very eminent doctor from Trinidad and Tobago”
She told iWitness News that “ordinary persons” have contributed towards paying for the medical examination of Farrell.
Last week, Connell made a public call for the DPP to discontinue the charge against his client.
Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News that she also believes that the charge should be withdrawn.
“It should be because I think it is a stupid case anyway. But I do not think that she should be whisked away without everybody knowing what is happening, because I am very sceptical that if that happened we may not hear about her again. Whisked away to some place where we don’t know where she is or who is in control.”
She said that Connell suggested in a media interview last week that Farrell could be leaving St. Vincent.
“I got the impression that taking her out of the country was part of the bargain for the nolle prosequi,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding that she came to that conclusion based on Connell’s media interview.
“I got the impression that there was a plea and it was to be done in secret, that’s why I’m against it being done in camera and I got the impression that “I’ll nolle prosequi, you take her out the country.” That sounds to me like shutting the girl up and getting her away and I don’t think that is in the best interest of her family or in her best interest. I may be wrong. If that is not what it is, it wasn’t shared with me. It’s the impression that I get from listening to that tape,” she said.