Attorney Nyree Alfonso thinks the State will be hard-pressed to show what powers they were seeking to exercise under Part 1 of the Mental Health Act to cause Cheryl Miller's detention. Under Section (6) of the Act, Alfonso said, there were six reasons outlined for a person to be admitted to a mental health institution.
"The legislation is quite clear. What it does not say, is that when you get on like a mad person or a person suffering from a mental ailment or mental disease, and you're acting in a certain way, we cart you off too. Maybe it should." Alfonso said that is how the legislation works. "It is as broad as it is narrow."
Alfonso said the State must be able to show good cause under Part 1 of the Act. The Mental Health Act of 2008, Alfonso said "does not appear to me that you could be having an oral altercation with your superior and you could be carted off to the mental institution."
Alfonso said if a habeas corpus was not granted by High Court judge Vashiest Kokaram, Miller would have remained institutionalised. She said some mental patients end up serving life sentences in mental institutions. "It's like a jail for them." Following the granting of a habeas corpus on Friday, the State was mandated to produce any evidence that Miller fell under Section 15:1 of the Mental Health Act, which was the sole explanation that was given for the removal of Miller from her desk.
Section 15 (1) of the Act describes the circumstances in which a mental health officer may apprehend an individual for the purpose of admission: if a person found wandering at large on a highway or in any public place and who, by reason of his appearance, conduct or conversation, a mental health officer has reason to believe is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment in a psychiatric hospital or ward, may be taken into custody and conveyed to such hospital or ward for admission for observation in accordance with this Section.
Alfonso doubted that Miller was found wandering on a highway. Based on Section (15) 1, Alfonso said the shoe is now on the other foot now. "The State has to prove under what powers were they purporting to exercise why they detained the lady. Or carted her off."
Should they fail to come up with sufficient evidence, Miller can file a lawsuit for wrongful detention. Detention could be in a police station, jail or mental institution.