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Akim gets a second chance

Akim Andrew is pictured on the right, along with Attorney Jerry Edwin on the left, after they exited the St. George’s No. 1 Court last week Thursday

Yes Sir, I am going to behave…thank you to you and to the court for giving me another chance.

Those were the words of assurance that Akim Andrew gave to the court after Acting Chief Magistrate Teddy St. Louis imposed a 1-year suspended sentence on him for violating the Health Practitioners Act along with 100 hours of community service to be administered by the Probation Unit, as punishment for committing the act of Fraud by False Pretense.

The teenager’s mother confirmed with THE NEW TODAY that he is just 18 years old and not 19 as stated in the initial press statement sent out by police.

Akim had spent just over a month as an inmate on remand at the Richmond Hill Prison before being sentenced last week Thursday at the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court, following two prior attempts to find an appropriate sentence for him.

The youngster has been diagnosed with a mental condition called anti-social personality disorder by Dr. Augustine Panchoo, the Clinical Psychologist who evaluated the status of his mental health.

Anti-social personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others without any remorse.

Akim, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on March 21 was able to manipulate his way into several communities and homes of unsuspecting individuals, offering them various medical services including prescribing medication, holding health fairs, making house calls and even charging for his services in what has been described as a “crime of sophistication.”

He had faced a maximum penalty of a term of imprisonment not exceeding three (3) years and a fine of $100, 000, as laid out under the Health Practitioners Act, while under the Criminal Code, he faced a maximum of two (2) years in prison for the offence of False Pretense.

Prior to pretending to be a medical doctor, Andrew was reprimanded and discharged after pretending to be a police officer.

When asked why he committed the crimes, Akim said: “When I look around society, I see a lot of void and gaps that need to be filled…I believe I have a special power…I have a lot of potential, I just need some guidance.”

However, the existing governmental structures does not have mechanisms in place to tackle Akim’s mental condition and in as such, Magistrate St. Louis sought alternative options other than sending the youngster off to the already overcrowded prison, which also lacks the ability to effectively rehabilitate him.

As part of the sentence handed down by the Acting Chief Magistrate, Akim was ordered to undergo one year of ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,’ with a mental health expert at St. George’s University (SGU).

CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

Acting Chief Magistrate St. Louis lauded Akim’s attorney, the American-trained Jerry Edwin, who assisted the court in visiting the ‘psychology services office’ at SGU where he found a plethora of doctors who can help his client but at a cost.

Attorney Edwin informed the court that, the department has recommended that Akim undergo Cognitive Behavioural therapy, which is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health.

“Akim, we want you to be useful so, we are going to give you another chance,” Acting Chief Magistrate St. Louis told the teenager expressing satisfaction with this approach.

As a consequence, if Akim breaches the suspended 1-year sentence within the next year, he will spend a default 1-year term behind prison bars.

Additionally, he was instructed to report to the ‘probation services’ on Melville Street as of this Monday to commence community service duties.

In commenting on the case with reporters after sentencing, Attorney Edwin admitted that “there has been a serious breach of public trust in this case by this young man (Akim), who is ambitious but obviously not qualified for the roles he tries to fill.”

He touched on the statement made by Dr. Panchoo that “Akim really believes that he can help society.”

Dr. Panchoo had also expressed concern that there is a high possibility that the teenager will reoffend because “there is no treatment for anti-social personality disorder.”

However, Attorney Edwin said he consulted with “Dr. Jason Flemming, who has provided forensic psychiatric reports to our court here in Grenada (who) recommended that this young man (Akim) receive cognitive behaviour therapy but because Dr. Flemming was not going to be available within the jurisdiction, he recommended a number of people on that SGU list and I was able to speak to someone and they provided me with a whole scheduled and regime of psychological intervention that over the course of the next 12 months Akim will be attending because we recognise that his behaviour with impersonating a medical doctor was not a one-off.

“…We know he (Akim) pretended to be a police officer and he had (also) convinced someone that he was older than he was because, in truth, Akim does present (himself) with a rare level of credibility and maturity for someone of such a tender age…and so we think that after a year of enforced therapy that we may see a different personality, the good on Akim emerging,” he added.

Akim is due to take therapy sessions once a month from the beginning of March.

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