A journey home from a crusade ended with blood drawn, after a homeless man, assumed to be of unsound mind, picked up a stone and threw it at a passing vehicle in the vicinity of St Jago Gardens in St Catherine.
The stone flew through one of the back windows of the Hyundai Creta vehicle that a family was travelling in, and hit a 28-year-old woman in the head last month, leaving her to find over $50, 000 for multiple doctor visits, a computerised tomography (CT) scan, an X-ray, and medications.
“I saw the man reach back his hand for a rock and then next thing, I hear boom and the [car] glass break out and we realised that my cousin had gotten hit in her head with the rock. The rock passed two people, hit her so hard in the head that it ricochet and ended up at the front of the car at the foot of the passenger seat. She was bleeding really badly,” a family member who requested anonymity told the Jamaica Observer.
“It was raining, so there were puddles on the road. We were going up to a huge area with water and there was a car in front of us. We saw a man flagging down the car, so my mommy started slowing down a little bit.”
The woman said they rushed to Spanish Town Hospital and notified police via phone. At the hospital, she said her cousin had to get stitches. They then visited Spanish Town Police Station to make a formal report.
“We went down there and the police basically told us that someone will be with us. We were there for about 30 minutes, and we found out that it had happened to someone after us. The police never responded and the person ended up hitting somebody else’s car,” she told the Sunday Observer.
She said they eventually left the station before making an official report, “because we had to go back to the hospital.”
Her cousin also “had to go back to the hospital after getting the stitches to check out if anything had happened to her brain.”
On Friday, September 24, 2021, a policeman died after being hit on the head with a stone by a man of unsound mind in Linstead, St Catherine. His attacker was later shot and killed by the police.
A day later, nurse administrator at the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill, Joy Crooks, said removing mentally ill people from the streets is not the solution for preventing incidents like the one that led to the death of the policeman.
Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, February 17, 2022, Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Commissioner Hugh Faulkner said that police officers were using lethal methods in their de-escalation of situations involving mentally ill people.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Sayeed Bernard said where the “criminal law is concerned”, an individual of unsound mind can be arrested and charged.
“Section 9 of the Mental Health Act allows for it. In fact, it speaks to the fact that if they’re found guilty, they can be held in a facility or in prison, which should fit their needs. If it is that the person is found by a jury to not be fit to plead to the crime that they’ve committed – for example, assault – then they can be held at the King’s pleasure,” he told the Sunday Observer.
Bernard said that an officer had the right, as explicitly stated in Section 15 (Mental Health Act), to arrest and detain a mentally ill person, if that individual is found to be doing acts that are not within reason of any normal person, or not legal.
“Essentially, the constable can arrest and detain a mentally ill person found engaging in illegal activities. For example, throwing stones at people’s vehicles. Where the civil remedy is concerned, you can sue, but to what end, when they have no means?”
The questions arise as to whether one will be able to find a mentally ill person to serve them documents, and whether they have money to compensate their victims. And so, Bernard said it would be a remedy that amounted to naught.
“… Given that it would not be effective and enforceable against a mentally ill person who has nothing to his name, as is the case of a lot of homeless persons on the street. And even though there’s a distinction between homelessness and mentally ill persons, one really and truly has to take into consideration that mentally ill persons are also homeless,” he told the Sunday Observer.
“So unfortunately, given the remedies or the lack thereof, one has to pray and hope that they don’t fall prey to the acts of a mentally ill person.”
Psychologist Dr Camille Campbell told the Sunday Observer that there are many reasons as to why mentally ill individuals may end on the road.
“There are limitations as it relates to housing for people who are mentally challenged, and some of them may need medication and that takes money. Financing may not be available. There probably needs to be availability that is cost effective for people,” she said.
This discourse, Bernard said, leads to solutions that need to be addressed, and in some cases, revisited.
“I think that the Government should perhaps have a programme through the Board of Supervision, which falls under the Ministry of Local Government to actually speak to some of these persons and see if they can do traces and gather information to find out who their next of kin is, who their children are.”
Citing Section 10 of the Maintenance Act, he said an elderly person or a parent can actually take action in a parish court or in the Family Court for the child to maintain them if it is that they are found to not be able to take care of themselves.
Within that framework, he added, the Government could help to actually honour those claims in the Family Court, bring their children to court so that some of them can “at the very least” get the requisite help needed.