Senior Magistrate renews criticism of Island’s care for mentally ill defendants

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Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner has again lamented the court’s limited powers under the law to deal with defendants who are mentally ill.

He was commenting on the case of a 33-year-old Southampton man, who is also a Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute outpatient, who admitted using threatening words to his mother.

The incident happened on December 29 at a residential care facility for the elderly operated by the defendant’s mother.

Paul Williams admitted using threatening words after he demanded money from his mother.

Crown counsel Susan Mulligan told Magistrates’ Court that police officers responded to a report of an annoying person at the home at 6.28pm.

The defendant had left the scene by the time officers arrived but returned again after they left.

When called again, the officers arrived to find Mr Williams at the scene where he appeared to be aggressive and agitated.

When cautioned that he was under arrest Williams tried to kick his mother and said he was going to kill her.

Mr Warner, who noted that he has seen Williams in his court before said: “Mental health philosophies and the law limits what can be done.

“We’ve been asking for a secure area for mentally ill patients for years and we haven’t got that.

“I don’t think people should be warehoused but in cases like this we see where it spills out into society.

“This man is violent and there was more than one potential victim at this residential care facility with vulnerable patients.”

Williams told the court that he lives alone at a home on Brighton Hill, in Devonshire, in a house that was given to him by his mother.

He also insisted that his mother was not afraid of him.

Mr Warner said: “This is a classic case of a mentally ill patient living on his own and not taking his medication and drinking alcohol.

“He needs to be locked down and stabilised without the alcohol otherwise it’s a vicious circle.”

He said he was inclined to send the defendant to jail for 30 days where “the Commissioner of Corrections has powers to send him to MAWI for treatment”.

“At least for 30 days he will have no alcohol, but that’s a short-term fix to an ongoing problem,” said Mr Warner.

Ultimately he remanded Williams in custody and ordered a social inquiry report, a psychiatric and a psychological report. The case was adjourned for mention on January 31.

When contacted by The Royal Gazette, Commissioner Edward Lamb conceded “the matter of mental health still remains an ongoing issue”.

“I hasten to add that this is not just an issue for Corrections but also for Bermuda in general.

“The matter of inmates who struggle with mental/psychological problems is one that is closely monitored by our staff, in conjunction with our colleagues at MAWI,” said Mr Lamb.

While reluctant to discuss specific cases, he did provide a general statement.

“The Department of Corrections has a Memorandum of Understanding with MAWI which facilitates the provision of psychiatric treatment for inmates who are deemed to be in need of such treatment.

“Under the provisions of this MOU, inmates who, as a result of assessments by our Medical Team, are deemed to be in need of psychiatric treatment are transferred to a secure ward at MAWI, where they are treated and regularly assessed.”

In the case of Williams, that assessment will be made while he is on remand at Westgate Correctional Facility.

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Published Jan 2, 2013 at 9:41 am (Updated Jan 2, 2013 at 9:40 am)

Senior Magistrate renews criticism of Island’s care for mentally ill defendants

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