Director of Prosecution Sejilla Mc Dowall says everyone who is accused of murder should undergo a psychiatric evaluation before being charged.
She expressed this view at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown, on July 14, shortly after the sentencing of Tzan “Zaza” Phillips, 24, who, on May 29, 2020 was affected by bipolar I disorder (pronounced “bipolar one”) when he killed his 9-year-old nephew, Jemarie Phillips.
Tzan’ condition was diagnosed soon after the killing.
His lawyer, Duane Daniel argued against a custodial sentence in light of the fact that Tzan committed the crime while his mental capacity was diminished.
Justice Brian Cottle sentenced Tzan to a further two years, three months, and 26 days in prison.
The judge, however, suspended the sentence for two years, on condition that Tzan continues to comply with his medical treatment.
Daniel said he was “deeply obliged to the court for its sage judgement”, saying that the case was an exceptional one.
The judge said he would reduce the judgement to writing and send it for publication so as to benefit other courts dealing with similar matters.
Mc Dowall, who appeared for the Crown, told the court that during their deliberations, both defence and Crown had filed submissions, trying to determine how to proceed with the matter.
She said the Crown was of the view that the court could be better assisted by sentencing guidelines for cases of manslaughter by reasons of diminished mental capacity.
The DPP said that the United Kingdom guidelines prescribe only custodial sentences in such cases.
“There is a recognition that notwithstanding the mental incapacity, there are going to be instances where a custodial sentence would be granted,” Mc Dowall said.
“And I don’t want the public to basically say, which is what seems to be the cry, that as long as the person displays some mental instability then that completely absolves them.”
Justice Cottle said: “That is not true.”
The DPP said it would be helpful to get some guidance on the scope of bipolar disease and its implication when the accused committed an offence while in a manic state, as compared to schizophrenia, which is degenerative.
She said that she has indicated the importance of psychiatric assessment during the course of an investigation because there are instances where persons are not assessed.
Mc Dowall said that the Office of the DPP has been insisting that there be assessments whenever someone is accused of murder, so as to inform charge-reduction discussions.
Tzan was initially charged with murder but the charge was reduced to manslaughter and he pleaded guilty to that lesser charge.