Consultant psychiatrist Griffin Benjamin has taken issue with Director of Public Prosecutions Gene Pestaina, over the DDP’s public pronouncements about why he discontinued the case against Sara Lyn Augustine, the young woman accused of stabbing to death her two children.
A release from Dr Benjamin says that in defending his decision to discontinue the court matter involving a client of the Community Mental Health Team (Augustine), “a few statements used by this senior judicial officer to justify his actions could be considered demeaning, unethical and wholesomely unprofessional conduct unexpected from such a prestigious office”.
“It was very unethical that the DPP could read out to the public the words of a confidential medical report that was issued by court subpoena,” Dr Benjamin said in his statement.
Psychiatrist Benjamin says the statements made by the DPP on the case indicate that “he may not understand the issue of mental competence to stand trial. Every month, the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) treats dozens of persons with Mental Health problems and makes them fit to stand trial”.
Augustine is alleged to have stabbed her five-year-old daughter Rachael Vigilant 45 times and her two month old baby Sophia 31 times at their home in Mahaut. The incident took place in the wee hours of September 16, 2010.
Gene Pestaina told Dominica News Online on Monday that his decision was based on a psychiatrist’s report and the intervention of the Canadian authorities.
A report by Consultant Psychiatrist Griffin Benjamin concluded that Augustine, alleged to have murdered her two children, “is mentally fit to plead and answer the charges against her”.
However the DPP said he was more interested in another part of the same report that indicated that “Augustine was diagnosed as suffering with Post partum Depression, a clinical illness characterized by a major depressive episode”.
He also took into consideration, he says, offers of help from the Canadian authorities to provide necessary psychiatric facilities for Augustine.
“We don’t have any suitable psychiatric facility here to deal with this lady, she would be tried, very probably convicted, sent to jail for a length of time and waste away,” Pestaina said in explaining why he arrived at the decision he did.
Dr Benjamin in response to the DPP’s explanation, says the Director of Public Prosecutions “has the authority to discontinue any matter that is before him. However, he must be able to justify his actions in a reasonable manner without pulling down his own social support system”.
“The decision by the DPP to refer this client for institutional Mental Healthcare in another country was unnecessary. This senior officer is not in a position to condemn the Dominica Mental Health Services,” Dr Benjamin contends.
However he acknowledges that “the decision of the DPP to discontinue a case of double infanticide secondary to Post-partum Depression is well supported by medical rationale”.
But while concluding that it is probably the most honourable action to take, Dr Benjamin says the CMHT has the professional capacity to provide professional mental health care to all of Dominica “despite the negative views expressed by the Director of Public Prosecution”.