January 24, 2022

Mental illness and prison (Part II)

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By Courtenay Barnett Mon, Oct 01, 2018

(An analysis in three parts: – historical – international – domestic – on the TCI’s approach to mental illness)

Part 11- International: In the first article in this series, I made reference to ‘The Colonial Context’.

One cannot be effective in response to a ruling power, if one does not understand the history and the true nature of that power. The Turks and Caicos Islands in 2018 is today effectively a Crown Colony under the 2011 Constitution imposed upon the people. In point of law I am able to defend that assertion’s veracity if challenged.

Britain’s history is defined by exploitation, savagery, duplicity, racism and inhumanity. Relative to 1492 onwards, how do I justify saying so? Simply by speaking from the historical and contemporary record – the truth .

If I were to write a ‘History of the post-1492 era of British development’ – it would be called ‘The bandit theory of history’.

Britain as the largest Empire the world has ever seen, could boast that upon the Empire the sun never set, while others were compelled under the Empire’s reign to suffer dark days.

Consider the criminal enrichment through the enterprise of trading human beings as property in the Atlantic African Slave Trade for centuries of forced labour; building a country that then as now has little or no appreciation for the economic contribution which those people ( the enslaved and others in the Empire)involuntarily contributed.

Even now, through duplicity and the dishonesty of hiding the archives of the ‘Empire Windrush’ post-World War 11 Caribbean immigrants, the British government tried dishonestly to avoid paying those Caribbean migrants their pensions due; atrocious and odious conditions imposed, famine and mass famines and concentration camps accompanied by massacres, were the order of the day.

The Empire rewarded criminality in high places as Sir Henry Morgan, a successful pirate, for example, was knighted and became the first Governor of Jamaica.

Britain is responsible for starting the first international drugs trade, with the importation from India into China of the opium, which was then forced upon Chinese Lords to subject their people to use for Britain’s profit.

Britain contrived the Irish famine for its own gain. Massacres of indigenous peoples and others all across the world were conducted in the name of imperial domination. The massacre at Amritsar (also called JallianwallaBagh Massacre); the slaughter of the Aborigines in Australia.

The depopulation of the island of Diego Garcia, to obtain Polaris missiles in a deal with the US Government. Concentration camps and torture of the Kenyans for opposing British theft of African lands and then official files hidden when in 2010 the claimants’ lawyers sought to confirm the documented, systematic torture of the Kenyans ( including President Obama’s grandfather) in seeking just compensation/reparations.

In the case of the Kenyans, the British strategy was to force compliance from their subjects – and when not obtained from the Kenyans, who had sought no more or less than return of the lands the British had stolen from them, they were tortured and then forced to work, in what was documented as the “dilution technique”, which the British Colonial Office fully endorsed. Brings to mind my own heritage in the Caribbean. All factually true and accurate.

Truly a long history of consistent cruelty, duplicity and dishonesty.

So, let’s consider the governance issue at hand and specifically the treatment of mentally ill persons in this TCI Crown Colony.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as does the TCI Constitution section 3, states in precisely the same words:-

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In a 2010 Immigration case on Judicial Review, which I argued, Mr. Justice Williams clearly accepted in his judgment, upon my submissions, that the provisions of the ECHR applied to the TCI and should be upheld and adhered to.

Note that the authority for Her Majesty’s Prison falls directly under the jurisdiction of His Excellency, the Governor. To this day Her Majesty’s Prison by way of section 70 of the new Mental Health Ordinance 2016 still designates the prison as the Turks and Caicos Islands “Mental Health Hospital”.

In 2014 I filed a Habeas Corpus application to have a man released, who had been imprisoned for over five (5) years without having been charged, tried or convicted for any offence known to law; but, he was a diagnosed schizophrenic and so he was conveniently housed in Her Majesty’s Prison for all that time.

Cases I have argued and my research of the international case law applicable to the TCI has convinced me that it is illegal to imprison mentally ill persons in Her Majesty’s Prison because it is not equipped/staffed to treat the mentally ill in accordance with requisite international legal obligations binding the UK and TCI for appropriate treatment and care of mentally ill persons. A prison is not a hospital.


Section 11 of the Lunatics Ordinance reads:-

“11. The Governor may by warrant under his hand send any lunatic detained under the provisions of this Ordinance under the custody of the person or persons named in such warrant to Jamaica there to be handed over to the Senior Medical Officer of the Mental Hospital.”

So let it not be said that the local law did not have an answer to comply with the stipulated international obligations ( not to torture and/or treat inhumanely, mental health patients by imprisoning them) at the time of my application. The proper care of the mentally ill, was already statutorily stipulated.

Having then imprisoned the man for over five (5) years what does Governor Peter Beckingham do? He signs Executive Order number 61 of 2013 in which he affirms:-

“ NOW THEREFORE, I PETER BECKINGHAM, Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, pursuant to the definition of “secure place” under section 2 of the Lunatics Ordinance, DO HEREBY APPROVE Her Majesty’s Prison Grand Turk to be a secure place for the detention of a lunatic.”

Just one more official act of British cruelty. The TCI subsequently legislated and advanced to the Mental Health Ordinance 2016. The new Ordinance, instead of the Governor, empowersthe Minister to designate such ‘secure place’, “ TO MAKE BETTER PROVISIONS FOR PERSONS WITH MENTAL DISORDER”(the statute’s stated objective). However, in 2018 Her Majesty’s Prison remains thedesignated ‘Mental Health Hospital’ for purported lawful “detention” of mentally ill persons ( read instead: “imprisonment”).And, how under s. 39 (d) there is to be “qualified professional staff” yet, under s. 6 the Minister can “ …designate any building or place as a hospital…”. So, the prison to this day, actually remains the “hospital” via sleight of legislative drafting.

Considered rationally, one would never conclude that in the 21st Century a rational or humane British official would designate a prison to be a ‘Mental Hospital’. That being as it may, there is in point of fact a consensus of cruelty, for the Executive has made the order; the judiciary has failed to declare on the legality-or – illegality of the order for over three years; and – the legislature has perpetuated the cruel and inhumane order as declared since 2013.

Blame colonialism as much as one may like, the question now is:-

Within the confines of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order, 2011 how will the elected Government respond and what ultimately will the Minster do? That is the question.

Other than that all I can then rely on for justice for mentally ill imprisoned persons is not any form of voluntary humane administrative justice, but instead ‘de triplicisororibus: fides, spes et caritas’ (the three-fold sisters: “Faith, Hope and Charity”) and mother “wisdom”.

See also Part III also published today

See Tomorrow: – the domestic aspects of ‘MENTAL ILLNESS AND PRISON’


Biographical note: Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer in the TCI for over thirty years, has had his life threatened, been arrested for defending his views, and has argued public interest and human rights cases.


IMAGE: http://suntci.com/mental-illness-and-prison-p3631-129.htm

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