Restitution for persons who are victims of crime committed by mental health patients was highlighted at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, last Friday.
“No one is going to compensate Ms Browne, and that is not [right],” Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett said as he mulled over the sentence to impose on Clint Cuffy.
Cuffy has mental health issues that are presumably linked to his drug habit.
He pleaded guilty to a charge that he stole a number of items, valued at EC$1,029 from a vendor.
A trial was underway when, in light of Cuffy’s statements, the magistrate asked lawyer Joseph Delves, who was at the bar table but was not involved in the case, to advise Cuffy.
After the conversation between the lawyer and the accused man, Delves asked that the charge be put to Cuffy again.
Burnett used lawman’s language to put the charge to Cuffy, who asked, “Browne?” then pleaded not guilty.
However, when the magistrate asked the complainant to stand in the dock, and again put the charge to Cuffy, he admitted to the offence.
“But what do we now do with him? He may go out and he is going to go on the road and may do that again,” Burnett said.
He said that based on his experience with Cuffy, if he is sent to the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre (MHRC) on a court order, “he is going to be out”.
It is very common for persons who the court orders to be institutionalised at the MHRC centre to be seen on the streets of Kingstown very soon afterwards.
“So how do we protect society from a Clint Cuffy?” the magistrate said.
Burnett noted that Cuffy had been on remand for over a year, unable to get anyone to sign his bond.
The man committed the crime on Feb. 12, 2020 and was granted bail with a surety.
Burnett granted him bail in his own recognisance on Feb. 15, 2021.
“So he has served his time while on remand,” Burnett said as he continued to consider a sentence.
“But there is a larger question. He is going to go back on the streets and create problems again,” the senior magistrate said.
“It is not an easy question to answer because within a matter of weeks, I saw a new Clint Cuffy when he was before me, compared to the persons who were before me when I granted him bail,” Burnett said.
“Cocaine,” someone in the courtroom said under their breath.
The magistrate said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have the institutions to deal with people like Cuffy.
He asked Delves to address the court on the issue.
Delves said that the court is handicapped as Cuffy needs “institutional and societal” help.
The lawyer said that he sees Cuffy everyday on the streets of Kingstown.
“How does the court deal with somebody when he is not all there [mentally]?” Delves said, adding that he was not even sure that Cuffy could be held criminally liable for his actions.
In the end, Burnett decided, “in the interest of society” to send Cuffy to the MHRC for rehabilitation/treatment.
The magistrate, therefore, sentenced Cuffy to the time spent on remand.
“You are safer inside,” the magistrate told Cuffy.