T&T woman forcibly taken to mental hospital regains freedom

(Trinidad Guardian) “I am very happy to be free.” These were the words of Cheryl Miller as she left the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday at the end of a habeas corpus action challenging her 15-day stay at St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. While speaking briefly with reporters, Miller said she was unable to sleep for the past few days and a burden had been removed off her shoulders now that the matter has come to an end. In a familiar scene as in previous hearings, Miller was accompanied by her sister Doreen and many of her co-workers who attended the hearing to lend support. Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke, who was also in attendance, left the courtroom with a smile on his face and described the result as a victory.  During yesterday’s hearing, Justice Peter Rajkumar, who presided in the matter, amended an earlier order which was granted by Justice Vasheist Kokaram on April 6.

Kokaram’s order stated that Miller be released from the institution into the care of her family. Rajkumar’s order omitted the requirement that Miller be in the care of her family. Miller, an accounts assistant, of St Francois Valley Road, Belmont, was reportedly taken against her wishes from her cubicle at the Gender, Youth and Child Development Ministry’s office at Tower D, International Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, on March 21. Shortly after her detention, her family through the assistance of the PSA, filed the action in the High Court to secure her freedom. The action listed Dr Ian Hypolite, the hospital’s medical chief of staff as the respondent. During a second hearing on April 13,  Kokaram revealed that the report  presented by the hospital differed from the independent psychiatrist. Kokaram said while the hospital report indicated possible schizophrenia, an independent report compiled by Dr Gerard Hutchinson stated Miller was not a danger to herself or to others.  Hutchinson is a professor and head of the Psychiatric Unit of the Department of Clinical Medicine Sciences at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

During yesterday’s hearing, Senior Counsel Russell Marineau, who appeared for Hypolite, said it wasn’t his client’s wishes to have Miller kept at the hospital. Martineau also did not contest a second report presented by Hutchinson which was ordered by Justice Kokaram at the last hearing. Miller’s attorney, Stanley Marcus, SC, said: “The issue in this matter is Miller’s liberty. Since she has been granted her liberty, this brings an end to the issue.” After over an hour of legal arguments over costs in the matter, Rajkumar ruled that each party would bear their own legal costs for the case. He said he was initially minded to grant legal costs to Miller and her attorney but his decision was swayed after hearing the lawyers’ submissions. When questioned by reporters after the conclusion of the case, Marcus declined to comment on whether his client (Miller) intended to take legal action against the hospital for her alleged unlawful detention. Marcus said the issue was confidential and was in Miller’s hands. Miller’s legal team also comprised attorneys Fitzgerald Hinds, Margaret Hinds, Debra James and Alicia Baksh. Attorney Devesh Maharaj also appeared for Hypolite.


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