BVI News

Another ‘mental’ offender sent to HMP | Gov’t called on to act

In the BVI, offenders with mental health problems are typically sent to Her Majesty’s Prison in Balsam Ghut.

Just days after a senior member of the local judiciary lamented the same issue, Magistrate Christilyn Benjamin has now said she wants government to place establishing a facility for mental health offenders on the proverbial front burner.

“It is time that government gives these matters the priority and put proper measures in place to assist the court in [dealing with] these kinds of matters,” she said.

Her call came on Thursday while handing down her sentence on Wilbert Joseph Pickering of East End for burglarizing two business places on Tortola.

The court heard that Pickering was diagnosed with mild mental retardation.

“It’s a pity indeed that we do not have the facilities to actually deal with persons like Mr Pickering,” she added.


Pickering was given a three-month custodial sentence for each burglary and those sentences are to run consecutively (one after the other).

He has been on remand since May 1 and, as such, his sentence will begin from that day.

Magistrate Benjamin said she took several factors into consideration before handing down the custodial sentence on Pickering.

Some aggravating factors include the seriousness of the offence, the fact that these offences occurred at night time, the magistrate said.

On the other hand, she pointed to his personal circumstances, as well as his early guilty plea as the mitigating factors.

The magistrate then cautioned the offender to stay out of trouble.

Pickering was caught on surveillance cameras breaking into A.M Distributors in Parham Town and Marlo’s bar in Long Swamp.

Meanwhile, it was just last week Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards said it was ‘unfortunate’ that there isn’t a facility designed for mentally unstable offenders in the territory.

She said, as such, the court is forced to send such offenders to the adult penitentiary in Balsam Ghut.

She pointed out, however, such a facility may not be among the top priorities of the Smith led administration at this time.

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  1. Political Observer (PO) says:

    Mental illness is a serious and an increasing public health issue in the VI. Let’s face it some of our fellow residents suffer from mental illness. Mental patients are treated insensitively with scorn, butt of jokes and derision by many in society, the supposedly sane people. Procrastination and wishing the problem away are not going to solve this health crisis. It needs to be attack head on; the BVI needs to take the bull by the horn so to speak.

    In the past, the BVI use to ship “crazy people” (as they were called ) to another regional country to be housed in a Third World dilapidated warehouse. That was poor health care. The BVI needs to treat its mentally ill patients with compassion, dignity…..etc. It is long past the dawn of a new day for dealing with this issue. The territory needs to invest in proper mental treatment and care. It needs to close and/or narrow the gap between mental care reeds and investment. Medical facility(s) and medical personnel are urgently needed to narrow the gap towards arresting the problem.

    True, if you do the crime, you must do the time. However, dealing with persons with mental issues is another kettle of fish. They shouldn’t be long let off the hook, excusing their behaviour. Different approaches to dealing with them are needed. Nevertheless, throwing them in jail at Balo is not the solution. Jailing people with mental disability(s) pose a serious health, safety and security risk to the mental patient inmate, other inmates and prison guards and other staff.

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