In what has been described as a drastic turn of events, Gillian Simmons, the mentally challenged woman from Potters Village, who has been imprisoned since January this year, for using threatening language at Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh and refusing to wear a face mask, has been unexpectedly released.
Surprisingly, her exoneration came mere hours before her family and their attorney Wendel Robinson were due before the High Court to fight for her freedom.
Robinson filed a writ of Habeas Corpus and a constitutional motion in court, to seek answers from the Chief Magistrate, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, along with the Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney, and the Superintendent of Prison Jermaine Anthony about his client’s imprisonment.
The matter was expected to be heard at 3 pm today, but as Robinson prepared for the hearing, he was informed that Simmons was released.
“This was done in my absence and in the absence of any family member,” Robinson said.
He said when the woman was released, her family had no clue about her whereabouts.
“This is a situation that agonizes me for many reasons. She has been in jail for 11 months and should have been evaluated by the government system which has not been done…Then you release her because of the Habeas Corpus motion that was filed before the court and then release her at large…These are the kind of negligence that should never be tolerated,” he said.
Robinson maintains that threatening language carries the penalty of a fine or a small form of imprisonment but does not warrant 11 months in jail.
He said clearly there was an abuse of power and others may have dropped the buck.
“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.
He said regardless of the woman’s freedom, he is moving along with the constitutional motion because Simmons’s rights were infringed.
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.
Meanwhile Head of the Prisons Visiting Committee Charlesworth Browne says Simmons was incarcerated but was released on indigent bail.
“Since then, the face mask issue surfaced and she was placed in jail for using threatening language. Yes, she has mental issues and we tried to engage medical professionals to provide assistance but it took some time to happen,” he said
Furthermore, Browne said the woman had refused to sign documents for indigent bail.
Browne added that the matter is really for the chief magistrate to handle and not necessarily the other persons named in the constitutional motion.