By Kenton X. Chance
Former model Yugge Farrell, 23, who is charged that on Jan. 4, in Kingstown, she used abusive language at Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, wife of Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, was on Monday granted EC$1,000 bail with one surety after three weeks of court-ordered hospitalisation at the Mental Health Centre.
The Lowman’s Bay resident, previously famed for her performance in the Caribbean Next Top Model, is to return to court on Dec. 17, 2018.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett ruled that Farrell’s Jan. 5 plea before then-Kingstown Magistrate, Bertie Pompey, is a nullity in light of a psychiatric report, which said the accused woman was unfit to plead.
“Where does that leave this matter?” the senior magistrate asked Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams, after his ruling on Monday on submissions made one week earlier.
“Where does it leave the matter?” the DPP asked.
“Yes, because the plea has to be a proper plea before this court before we can proceed,” the senior magistrate responded.
“Your Honour, my understanding is that, first of all, there is a further report as to the status [of the accused],” Williams said in reference to a new medical report on Farrell that was presented to the defence and prosecution just before hearing on the matter recommenced.
“My only anxiety — the only bit of anxiety is in terms of the last paragraph. It addresses the duration of treatment, so to speak, while of course, saying — there is no longer a necessity for the original order as made to continue,” he said.
The DPP was referring to Pompey’s order that Farrell be hospitalised at the Mental Health Centre for two weeks of psychiatric evaluation.
Burnett extended that hospitalisation for a further week, last Monday, to allow him to decide on arguments presented by the DPP and defence counsel, Grant Connell.
“There is nothing else that excites the prosecution,” the chief prosecutor further said as Farrell stood in the defendant’s dock and Duncan-Gonsalves, whom she is accused of calling “a dirty b***h”, stood in the dock across from her for the first of the three times that the matter has come to court.
Since her hospitalisation, videos have emerged on the internet of Farrell claiming that she had a sexual relationship with Duncan-Gonsalves’ husband, the finance minister.
Farrell’s parents have told iWitness News that they have heard of the relationship.
Her mother, Gailene Farrell, has told iWitness News that she spoke to the finance minister’s father, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, last year about what she had heard.
The prime minister, however, has denied having such a conversation with the model’s mother, saying that when she came to see him last year, they spoke about a job for Yugge.
Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, who Yugge Farrell is accused of calling a “dirty b***h” leaves the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court after Monday’s proceedings. (iWN photo)On Monday, Barbadian Queen’s Counsel, Andrew Pilgrim, took over from Connell as the lead counsel for Farrell.
After the magistrate’s ruling, Pilgrim rose and asked if the Crown had any objections to bail.
The DPP said there was none, and Pilgrim asked for bail, saying that he thinks the court is now happy that matters are being addressed in terms of treatment for Farrell.
The ruling came in the face of a new medical report presented to the court just before the matter against Farrell came up for hearing.
The defence and prosecution were informed of the report and were allowed to read its contents just as the proceedings were commencing.
A psychiatric report presented one week earlier had said that Farrell was unfit for trial.
The DPP had, therefore, suggested that the court act on a section of the Mental Health Act that could have seen Farrell sent back to the psychiatric hospital for further treatment.
Connell had argued against the validity of that report, saying it was not prepared by a psychiatrist and had argued for bail for his client, whom he has been representing pro bono.
At her arraignment before Pompey on Jan. 5, Farrell pleaded not guilty to the abusive language charge.
The prosecution then asked the court to commit the accused woman to two weeks of psychiatric evaluation, but did not produce any information in support of the application.
Pompey granted the application amidst strong protest by Connell.
During the court hearing last week Monday, Jan. 22, before Burnett, who is the new senior magistrate, Connell submitted that Pompey’s order that Farrell be hospitalised was made after Farrell had pleaded.
He further argued that the court should, therefore, not entertain any report touching or concerning her fitness to plea as a plea was already taken.
The DPP, on the other hand, invited the court to consider Chapter 6 of the textbook, “Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure”.
Williams argued that whether the defendant had pleaded before the order was made is a non-issue.
He further told the court that the Evidence Act allows for any registered medical practitioner to tender any document as proof of its content.
The DPP submitted that the medical practitioner who had signed the report, physician Sonasree Jammulapati, medical officer at the Mental Health Centre, was trained in psychiatry.
Burnett told the court that the first issue was whether a judicial officer could interfere with an order made by a court of equal standing.
He said the magistrate’s position could be contrasted to that of a High Court judge, in that magistrates have powers from the common law, including the power to supervise and control the magistrate’s court.
He said that in the case involving Farrell, Magistrate Pompey made an order, by which his (Burnett’s) court is bound unless the order is vacated or set aside by a court that has power to do so.
The second issue was how the court should treat the report submitted last Monday by Jammulapati.
Burnett said that the court was in receipt of the doctor’s qualifications and had shared them with Connell.
The senior magistrate said that the court was satisfied that the court should accept Jammulapati’s report as having been prepared by someone who is qualified in the field of psychiatry.
He further said that section 1(17) of the Mental Health Act says that when an accused is detained in a mental hospital, and a medical practitioner employed in the hospital certifies that the accused is incapable of making a defence, such accused shall be taken before the court at such time as the court appoints to be dealt with according to law and a certificate of a medical practitioner shall be receivable as prima facie evidence of the capacity of the accused.
Yugge’s mother, Gailene Farrell, speaks to reporters outside the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Monday after her daughter was granted bail. (iWN photo)He said the Mental Health Act defines a medical practitioner as a person registered under the Medical Registration Act.
Burnett further told the court that Section 3(2) of the Mental Health Act also permits the Public Service Commission to appoint a medical practitioner to be the medical officer in charge of the psychiatric ward.
The magistrate ruled, therefore, that Dr. Jammulapati could properly present the report to the court.
“The court is minded to give effect to this report and to give effect to the content of this report in the management of this case,” Burnett said.
He said a third issue is the effect of the report on the plea that Farrell entered on Jan. 5.
Burnett said that a defendant who is on trial at the magistrate’s court is required to enter a plea to the charge before the trial legitimately begins.
He noted that the DPP had said it is a non-issue whether a person pleads before the order of the magistrate is made.
The senior magistrate said the doctor had found that Farrell was not fit to plead.
He further said the text cited by the DPP does not speak to powers of a magistrate to vacate a properly entered guilty plea, neither are such powers contained in the Magistrate Act.
“It, therefore, seems that having held that the defendant was unfit to plea, that plea that was taken on the 5th of January 2018 and which still remains as an unequivocal plea, may amount to a nullity.
“Consequently, this ruling is that the order of His Honour, Magistrate Pompey, made on the 5th day of January 2018 remains an order of the court, unless vacated by a higher court.
“Secondly, the plea entered on the 5th of January 2018 may be a nullity.”
The magistrate further ruled that the report before the court by the health professional is properly before the court.”
A modest crowd of persons who had called for Farrell’s release celebrated outside the court the news that she was granted bail.
Both of Farrell’s parents were in court on Monday.
Her father, Calvert Charles, was there also for a hearing in a matter in which he is a defendant.
The Yugge who appeared in court on Monday seems more like the person who appeared when she was first arraigned. She stood quietly in the dock and made no untoward or noises, as had been the case on Jan. 5.
This was in marked contrast to her behaviour last week when she made howl-like noises twice in the proceedings, presumably as a result of the anti-psychotic drugs that Connell said had been given to her at the psychiatric hospital, contrary to his orders.