‘Asylum’ British Law Prevails in Turks & Caicos — Turks & Caicos

See below for Part II from “What is the Law?” by Courtenay Barnett, Lawyer in Turks & Caicos who continues to fight the fight for individuals in Turks & Caicos “imprisoned for the ‘crime’ of being mentally ill”. Outdated laws continue to prevail in Turks & Caicos which happens elsewhere but in this case under British rule including “Her Majesty’s Prison as a place designated for the treatment and care of the mentally ill”. It is truly unbelievable that in 2017, almost 2018, this antiquated British law would continue to prevail. (Articles Part I and II recently published in Turks & Caicos Weekly News http://tcweeklynews.com/index143.htm)

In an administrative challenge, I had publicly informed then Governor Peter Beckingham that it was unlawful to have ordered the imprisonment of the mentally ill. My only exchange with His Excellency was subsequently when he approached me at the Bohio Hotel to state that he was not uncomfortable with my challenge but did not like being called a racist. I declined to respond or comment. However, in a letter to the Secretary of State of the 1st day of November 2017, I said this:

“In the Privy Council  case of McLeod v. St. Aubyn [1899] AC 549, at 561,  it was ruled:

“ Courts in this country (England) are satisfied to leave to public opinion attacks or comments derogatory or scandalous to them. But it must be considered that in small colonies consisting principally of coloured populations the enforcement in proper cases of committal for contempt of court for attack on the Court may be absolutely necessary to preserve in such community the dignity of and respect for the Court.”

And I continued:-

“It was in 1863 that Broadmoor as a criminal lunatic asylum, as an actual hospital,   was established in England. Therein psychiatric medication and psychotherapy are applied.  It is now the year 2017 and by way of Legal Notice 61 of 2013 the Turks and Caicos Islands has Her Majesty’s Prison as a place designated for the treatment and care of the mentally ill.”

In plain words, there are standards deemed judicially tolerable in a colony “consisting principally of coloured populations”, that are anathema in England. Thus, the established practice of imprisoning the mentally ill in the Turks and Caicos Islands by Executive Order since 2013, and, apparently, fully condoned as acceptable medical practice is perpetuating, even in 2017, long established attitudes towards those who reside in Her Majesty’s colonies, as pronounced by Lord Morris since 1899.

At some point in time, I believe that the political directorate will finally do that which needs to be done to protect the rights of mentally ill persons in the Turks and Caicos Islands who continue to be sent to prison for the ‘crime’ of being mentally ill.

Of course, the powerful will abuse power, unless a challenge is put to rein in egregious wrongs, neglect and excesses. So, to the younger generation, I invite you to become educated and not merely be trained lawyers. An educated lawyer thinks, questions, challenges and seeks justice. A trained lawyer mainly runs a business and chases fees. Yet, a choice can be made and a better Turks and Caicos Islands can be actualised by the younger lawyers advocating for what they want the country to be. So, “What is the law?” is therefore a question and a challenge for you the younger generation of lawyers to answer.

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 for over thirty years, has been arrested for defending his views, subjected to death threats,  and has argued public interest and human rights cases.

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