Katherine Deal KC instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (London) for the Respondent.
This case is concerned with the rights of persons charged with serious criminal offences but found unfit to plead at trial and detained in prison until the Governor General’s pleasure should be known.
There are two appeals before the Board. In each appeal the appellant was detained on this basis for a very lengthy period. The first appellant, Mr Henry, was detained for 24 years before being released. The second appellant, Mr Noel, was detained for 32 years.
The appellants’ complaint is that they were detained in prison rather than in a mental hospital, as they should have been. They also say there was no proper review of whether continued detention remained appropriate throughout these periods. They maintain that if there had been they would have been released much earlier, possibly after trial on the charges against them once they were fit to plead. They claim damages for breach of their rights to personal liberty and to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment set out in the Constitution of St Lucia at section 3(1) and section 5, respectively.
2. Mr Henry’s case
Mr Henry was arrested on 26 September 1995 and charged with two counts of murder. He was detained on remand until his arraignment on 7 February 2000, when he was found unfit to plead. The judge ordered that he be detained in prison “until the Governor General’s pleasure shall be known”.
At first Mr Henry was detained in the prison at Castries but later he was transferred to the prison at Bordelais. He remained there until he was unconditionally discharged by the High Court sitting in its criminal jurisdiction on 30 May 2019. This discharge was the result of proceedings commenced on his behalf by his current solicitor, who had learned of his situation.
According to Mr Henry’s medical notes compiled in the medical unit at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (“Bordelais”), he was seen by visiting consultant psychiatrists at the unit on a number of occasions each year from 2003 (when the unit opened) until his release in 2019, totalling 103 occasions. There is no evidence in the form of medical notes regarding what (if any) psychiatric attention was received by him prior to 2003.
Mr Henry has been mentally ill for most of his life. His medical notes show that he was examined by the psychiatrists at the medical unit and diagnosed variously with psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and anti-social personality disorder. He was given medication for these conditions throughout the period of his detention covered by the medical notes.
Mr Henry remained in prison and was not admitted to any mental health facility. He was not subjected to periodic reviews to decide whether his mental health had improved such that he might be fit to stand trial.
3. Mr Noel’s case
Mr Noel was arrested and charged on 13 December 1987 with causing grievous harm. He was detained on remand at the Royal Gaol. At trial on 21 November 1991 the jury found that he was not fit to plead. On the basis of that finding, on 20 July 1992 the judge ordered that he be detained in prison “until the Governor General’s pleasure shall be known.”
Mr Noel’s detention continued at the Royal Gaol until he was transferred to Bordelais when it opened in February 2003. He remained there until trial on 24 October 2019 in the present civil proceedings, which were commenced by his current solicitor after he learned of Mr Noel’s plight.
Medical notes for Mr Noel compiled at the medical unit at Bordelais show that he was seen by visiting consultant psychiatrists at the unit on a number of occasions each year between 2003 and his release, totalling 89 occasions in all. As with Mr Henry, there is no evidence in the form of medical notes regarding what (if any) psychiatric attention was received by him prior to 2003.
Mr Noel has also suffered from mental illness for most of his life. His medical notes from Bordelais show that he was diagnosed as being delusional, schizophrenic and occasionally psychotic. He was given medication for these conditions in the period covered by the notes.
Like Mr Henry, Mr Noel remained in prison and was not admitted to any mental health facility. He was not subjected to periodic reviews to decide whether his mental health had improved such that he might be fit to stand trial.