Dumas: State on shaky ground in case

Miller was forcibly taken away from her work place at the Ministry of Gender,Youth and Child Development, on the 21st floor of Tower D on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, and taken to St Ann’s on March 21. She was only released from the facility on Good Friday following an order from the Port-of-Spain High Court

“The minister has said that she did not make the call and that she takes full responsibility, that’s fine, but if the minister instructed the permanent secretary or any senior officer to call, then the minister could be held legally responsible too because the question would be asked on what basis did you do that? And did you do that while conforming to the law?” Dumas said.

“We have to know who in the ministry requested this and why ... who were the psychiatric experts. We don’t know who made the call. What were the qualifications of the people who made the call and who gave the instruction.”

He added, “The question arises ‘who made the judgement that she needed treatment at St Ann’s ... who in the ministry made that judgement?”

Dumas said despite all that was now in the public domain about the incident, he believed there were gaps still in the story involving Miller. However, he said it still seems that the ministry may have breeched the Mental Health Act.

“On the basis of what I’ve read, it seems to me that the Mental Health Act has been breeched, it would seem to me that her constitutional rights have been breeched,” Dumas said.

“It would seem to me that the Mental Health Act has been violated in this case, in that she was not picked up in a public place, she was not wandering about and there appears to be no letter from her practitioner that she should be admitted to St Ann’s.

“It would seem to me that no previous effort was made to have her counselled by a psychologist. I have not heard of any previous incident of mental instability, so it’s all very strange and now we hear that she was taken to St Ann’s and given medication because she had a chemical imbalance. ... I don’t know what that means.” Dumas said it was difficult for him to make a judgement, however, since all the facts were still not present. He said he was apprised of some altercation between Miller and her co-workers. However, he was concerned about the manner in which she was escorted from the building.

“I haven’t come across anyone who has all the facts in the matter. It’s very difficult to make a judgement in the absence of all the facts. What I have read is there was some altercation in the ministry and the lady was accusing people of bad talking her and discrimination. What I am reading ... I don’t know if that version is factual or not, because we do not seem to be able to get the facts, but what we can do is look at the Mental Health Act

“I don’t know if that version is factual or not because we simply do not have facts ... if she was properly removed in accordance with the act, and it seems that when the matter went to court yesterday the attorneys said she was taken under Section 51 of the act which talks about people wandering about in the streets, but clearly she was not wandering about in the streets, she was sitting at her desk, so wandering about in a public place is hardly the same as sitting at your desk in your office.”

He also claimed the act may have been violated because there was no letter from a medical practitioner.

Dumas said Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, in his capacity, also could not pass judgement on Miller.

“I don’t know what his expertise is ... as far as I know he is a neurologist, so I don’t know about his ability to interpret psychiatric findings. I don’t know if he is a psychiatrist, maybe he is.”

He said, however, that if an employee of the Public Service was having problems, there was the Employee Assistance Programme which could handle it.

“If they knew that this lady was disturbed I would have expected the Permanent Secretary to go to an EAP and see whether she could be helped. I would also have expected, if she was showing any sign of mental instability, a psychologist to be brought in to speak to her and counsel her...I have not heard that these things happened.

“Therefore the questions arise...who made the judgement that she needed judgement at St Ann’s. We need the full story,” Dumas said.

Contacted yesterday, attorney Alicia Baksh-Clarke, one of Miller’s attorneys, said the legal team was of the firm view that the Mental Health Act needed to be amended in the wake of this incident. She said, however that their next step would be to file constitutional proceedings against the State.


"Dumas: State on shaky ground in case"

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