High Court judge Vasheist Kokaram yesterday ordered the conditional "discreet and dignified release" of Cheryl Miller, an accounting assistant at the Ministry of Gender Affairs, from the St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital. He made the order after private talks with attorneys for her family and Dr Ian Hypolite, medical chief of staff at St Ann's.
At 6 pm, Miller left the hospital in the company of her sister, Doreen, and attorneys Stanley Marcus, SC, and Fitzgerald Hinds. Miller, who was a patient at the hospital for more than two weeks, was placed in the custody of her sister, Doreen, and brother, Hamilton Groden.
Justice Kokaram's order was handed down during a special sitting at the Hall of Justice for the hearing of a habeas corpus motion filed by the law firm, Hinds and Company, on behalf of Miller and her sister. Miller was represented by Marcus, Hinds, Margaret Hinds, Debra James and Alicia Baksh.
Hypolite was represented by Vashist Maharaj. The matter will be heard again on Thursday at 10 am in the same court, when Miller is expected to be present. Miller was taken against her wishes by medical officers from her desk at the ministry's office, Tower D, International Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, more than two weeks ago.
Justice Kokaram's order states that:
• Miller be released into the custody of Doreen Miller and Hamilton Groden on or before 7 pm on April 6.
• Miller be reviewed by an independent psychiatrist, to be determined by the applicant's attorneys on or before 4 pm on April 11. A copy of the medical report, if any, to be delivered into the custody of the assistant registrar under confidential cover on or before 4 pm on April 11.
Maharaj told the court that Miller was detained under Section 15 of the Mental Health Act. He said she was "a medically-recommended patient." But Justice Kokaram said the defence would have a significant challenge seeking to keep her at the hospital under that provision. He demanded that Maharaj justify keeping her at the hospital under that provision.
Maharaj reiterated that Miller had a medical condition and it was in her best interest and the interest of the nation that she be treated at the hospital. Miller's attorney, Marcus, objected. He said nothing was medically wrong with Miller on the day she was "arrested and up to yesterday-the day of her release."
He said the liberty of his client was infringed and the family will be seeking to challenge her detention via a constitutional motion. He was critical of the way Miller was treated at the hospital, saying she was not allowed to read newspapers. Marcus also said the defendant was in contempt of the court by failing to heed an order to have Miller present at the hearing.
Maharaj, in response, said the defence was not served with the necessary documentation from the applicants. He later told reporters everything was done to assist the court in the matter yesterday. Marcus told the court: "There was no justification for keeping her. She was unlawfully arrested. Her constitutional rights have been infringed."
Doreen Miller said the entire experience had been stressful for her and her sister and she was happy about the court ruling. After the ruling, Maharaj said the hospital did not want to release Miller because it was "concerned about the health of the country and the responsibilities we have under the Mental Health Act to ensure that there is proper care for people who are mentally ill in the society."
He declined to disclose Miller's condition, as her rights to confidentiality must be respected. Marcus told the media outside the court that Miller's family was happy about yesterday's outcome, as the court had ordered her release. Gender Affairs Minister Verna St Rose-Graves said on Tuesday that she took responsibility for the decision to have Miller admitted to the hospital.
Miller's family and co-workers had been demanding her release from the hospital. On Thursday, they staged a protest outside the Parliament, which is located in the same building as Miller's workplace.