Our Readers' Opinions
February 9, 2018
The case against Yugge Farrell

by Frank E daSilva

Every person of the age of discretion is, unless the contrary is proved, presumed by law to be sane and to be accountable for his actions: R v Layton (1849) 4 Cox 149. Archbold 17-74. The onus is on the defence to establish insanity at the time of the offence on the balance of probabilities.

In all other cases, unless there is statutory authority to the contrary, the onus is on the prosecution to establish mens rea beyond all reasonable doubt, whether generally or when particular issues arise (Woolmington v DPP [1935] A.C.462) Archbold 17-5.

Prosecutors should be mindful of the mens rea requirements of specific offences and consider the impact of a mental disorder on the offender’s ability to form the necessary mens rea. An independent medical report may be helpful.

In Search of Justice

May it, please, Your Honour, the Prosecution will be taking a certain position in this matter, but before that position is stated, the prosecution seeks your permission to address the court on the matter before us today, so that the position taken can be put into its proper perspective and that the reason for taking the said position is clearly understood. I therefore crave your indulgence.

Your Honour, the accused was arrested and charged on 4th January, 2018 and brought before this honourable court on 5th January, 2018. Following a report that was made to the police and after an investigation was conducted by the police (it was concluded that the accused had referred to Mrs Duncan as a bitch in a public place) and therefore were satisfied that the accused had committed the offence of breach of the peace, hence the respective charge.

Following the arrest and prior to the matter being brought before this honourable court, the Prosecution received information that the accused had been treated for a mental illness by a qualified medical practitioner and that the accused suffered from a mental disorder which was stated as Bipolar. Your Honour, further enquiries revealed that a person who is suffering from Bipolar experiences severe mood swings, ranging from extreme bliss to manic depression in a few minutes.

Accordingly, Your Honour, when this matter was brought to this court initially, the Prosecution made an application for the accused to be evaluated in order to ascertain if she was fit to plead. Your Honour, the prosecution is here to see that justice is served and also seen to be served. Your Honour, the Prosecution is aware that justice delayed is also justice denied and therefore Your Honour, the Prosecution was thinking about doing justice when it applied to the court for an evaluation of the accused fitness to plead. Your Honour, the prosecution wanted to feel satisfied that the accused was mentally prepared to stand trial having regard to the information that was brought to its attention that the accused was suffering from Bipolar, which is a mental disorder. Your Honour, it was only fair and proper for the Prosecution to receive its assurance about the accused’s fitness to plead before proceeding with a matter that may well prejudice the accused in circumstances where the accused may not have had the mental capacity to commit the offence. It is quite possible, Your Honour, that at the time when the accused committed the alleged offence that she may not have had the mental capacity to do so and this is one of the essential ingredients of the offence for which she has been charged.

Hence, Your Honour, the importance of feeling satisfied that the accused, in the first instance, was fit to plead. And, Your Honour, at this point, the Prosecution wishes to mention the unfortunate and inaccurate coverage that this matter received in the public domain, especially where it was contended that this honourable court had no jurisdiction to order an evaluation of the accused’s mental health in order to ascertain if she is fit to plead. Your Honour, this court has an inherent jurisdiction to determine whether or not any accused is fit to plead and that determination can be made on the basis of the information that the court has at its disposal. Moreover, Your Honour, Section 115 of Criminal Procedure Code Chapter 172 of the 2009 Revised Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines empowers the Magistrate to order that the accused be evaluated. Whether or not a sufficient reason or reasons were given by the Prosecution is not the main issue. The Prosecution is of the view that once the court is satisfied that the accused may not be able to understand what is required of her and therefore to respond rationally, then, in the interest of justice and to the fairness of the accused the court has the jurisdiction to order that the accused’s fitness to plead should be evaluated.

Your Honour, it was brought to our attention prior to the first hearing that since early 2017, the accused was undergoing treatment for Bipolar disorder. Our inquiries also revealed that the accused was being treated for that mental illness, but stopped taking the treatment since July 2017. Your Honour, in the absence of that treatment, the accused is likely to manifest the symptoms or mood swings associated with the mental illness referred to as Bipolar Disorder. Your Honour, the evaluation report has confirmed that the accused suffers from Bipolar Disorder. Your Honour, on Thursday, 4th January 2018, when the accused went to the virtual complainant’s workplace and used the prohibitive words, it is quite possible that she could have been experiencing one of these mood swings and therefore had no control over her mental state at the material time. Your Honour, having regard to her Bipolar Disorder and the fact that she had not taken any medication for that mental illness since July 2017, the Prosecution is even more doubtful now than before about her mental state on 4th January, 2018.

In those circumstances, Your Honour, and having seen the report and the confirmation that the accused is Bipolar, the Prosecution may not be able to satisfy the court beyond reasonable doubt about the mental state of the accused and therefore has decided in the interest of justice to withdraw the charge.