The need for proper facilities to house individuals with mental illnesses who run afoul of the law is once again rearing its ugly head in the rare court matter involving 19-year old Akim Andrew who has been diagnosed with Anti-social personality disorder.
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.
This behaviour may cause problems in relationships or at work and is often of a criminal nature.
Andrew was due for sentencing on two summary charges of Fraud by False Pretense and four summary charges of Practicing Medicine without being Registered and one charge for driving without a licence by Acting Chief Magistrate Teddy St. Louis on Monday.
However, the Magistrate, who has adopted a gradual approach to the case against the teenager, has been engaged in extensive discussions with the Police Prosecutor and the defence attorney-at-law and has once again decided to push back the sentencing hearing.
The major stumbling block is a lack of structures in place to cater for the mental health needs of persons like Andrew, who faces at least two years imprisonment for the crimes, which involves him misleading over 30 individuals including the mother and sister of a sitting Magistrate, that he was a medical doctor.
“He is looking at two years in prison (but) the question is whether it should be suspended with potential to be rehabilitated,” Acting Magistrate St. Louis told Dr. Augustine Panchoo, the Cynical Psychologist who diagnosed Andrew and was summoned to the court to expound on his diagnoses and recommendations.
According to Dr. Panchoo, who expressed the view that even if a custodial sentence is given, Andrew has a high risk of reoffending,” especially “when it comes to personality disorder – it is who you are and there is no cure or treatment.”
“Akim is just who Akim is and he is going to do it again,” said the medical expert who described the accused as one having “narcissistic” traits.
One of several types of personality disorders,narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
Andrew himself admitted to the court on Monday that he just wants to help when he sees that things are not being done properly and takes it upon himself to try and fix it.
“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,” said the teenager.
Reiterating that “there is absolutely no treatment (therapy and counseling) for him in prison (to curb the tendency),” Dr. Panchoo also pointed out that there is also a significant gap in government’s social network, which he noted does not have the relevant staff at Legal Aid or the necessary structures in place to handle persons like Andrew.
However, Attorney Edwin expressed the view that it is “incorrect for anyone to say as it is often said here, that there are no resources to assist the mentally disabled, to assist young people who run afoul of the criminal justice system and who have psychological problems.
“It is the misallocation of funds by the government and a consistent and conscious decision not to dedicate the funds in those areas,” Attorney Edwin said in an interview with THE NEW TODAY following Monday’s hearing.
Acting Magistrate St. Louis, who is seeking to redirect Andrew’s skills and vigour in a more meaningful way, expressed concern that in the absence of the necessary rehabilitative measures, the teenager would come out worse if sent off to prison.
Attorney Edwin who agrees that Andrew should be given a “fighting chance,” and without no satisfactory measures in place for the teenager, on the advice of Dr. Panchoo, the Acting Magistrate took a decision to allow Andrew’s attorney to seek external support from the Psychological Department within St. George’s University (SGU) as an option for consideration when the court resumed on Thursday.
At present, Grenada has a draft mental health policy and mental health plan dating back to 2006 and a Mental Health Act dating back to 2008.
The annual budget does not make provisions for mental health and the allocation for mental health care is subsumed under the heading “Hospital Services.”
Health Minister Nicholas Steele could not be reached for comment on the issue of a lack of resources to treat persons like young Akim.