A writ of Habeas Corpus and a constitutional motion have been filed in court, to hear a case against four top officials in Antigua and Barbuda.
The matter involved Gillian Simmons of Potters Village, a mentally challenged woman in her early fifties who has been imprisoned since January this year for failing to wear a face mask and using threatening language.
The country’s Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, along with the Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney, the Superintendent of Police Jermaine Anthony, and the Chief Magistrate Mrs. Joanne Waslh have all been served.
Benjamin and Rodney were served today Wednesday, while Anthony and Mrs. Walsh were served on Tuesday respectively
Criminal Attorney Wendel Robinson, who is representing the family of the mother of five said threatening language carries the penalty of a fine or a small form of imprisonment, and normally speaking, a person will not be imprisoned for threatening language.
“Certainly, it doesn’t carry a penalty for eleven months and she has been there for 11 months. They are saying that she has to be evaluated because they believe that she has a mental issue but you cannot have a person in custody for 11 months waiting to be evaluated. She is in prison beyond any time that would have been allotted to her if she was serving a term of imprisonment for the offenses she was charged for,” he said.
In his application, Robinson said the woman’s rights to freedom of liberty, freedom of movement, her rights to be tried between a fair and reasonable time, and the degrading and inhumane treatment for having kept her in custody for that length of time have breached her conditional and human rights.
The woman’s son Keemo Simmons in his sworn testimony said his mom has been suffering from mental issues for several years and she would regularly go for walks around St Johns
He said sometime in January, his mother left home and did not return but thought she would have come back as usual.
The documents filed in court, obtained by this media house also stated that the woman had not returned home for one month.
But her son, a government employee said no missing persons report was filed because “we thought that she must be somewhere in town walking about”
“It so happened that one day I was passing on Coronation Road, going to the Community First Credit Union, and as I passed on the road where the prison is located, I heard my mother scream. I immediately recognized the voice to be that of my mother, so I made a phone call and made inquiries and discovered that she was an inmate at the prison,” Keemo Simmons said
He said he made inquiries and was told that she made threatening language to a magistrate after failing to wear a face mask.
The man said lack of funds prevented him or his other siblings from hiring an attorney to get his mother out of prison.
“…my mother had been detained against her will for almost one year. No one, neither from the police or the magistrate court nor from the prison reached out to me or my family to inform us that she was being detained, taken to court, or remanded”
“I believe the commissioner and his agents have a constitutional responsibility to inform a family member that our mother was in custody, is being charged, taken to court, and for what offense,” he said.
A few residents from Potters Village who knows Gillian very well confirmed that she has a mental challenge but she is not a violent person.
A high court judge is expected to hear the matter shortly.
When our mentally challenged citizens are being jailed for nearly a year, IN PRISON, for not wearing a mask, you know something’s terribly wrong!