Jerome Cunningham’s attorney has been waiting three months for a psychiatric report to determine whether his client is fit to plead to charges that include attempted murder and attempted robbery.
On Friday, June 2, attorney Jonathon Hughes told Justice Charles Quin that the request for a psychiatric evaluation had been made when the case was transmitted from Summary Court to Grand Court – March 2.
“He tells me he has not yet had an appointment,” Mr. Hughes said of his client. “I understand there is somewhat of a backlog in the system.”
Justice Quin said the court had “chased it up,” but there had been no response from the Mental Health Department [also referred to as the Mental Health Unit] even up to that very morning. “I think I’ll have to make an order for someone to appear to explain the delay,” he said.
That person does not need to be a doctor or nurse, the judge added – just someone to come and “explain why we haven’t been able to get an appointment – or give an appointment date.”
He made the order for Friday, June 16, but suggested that maybe there would be some movement before then.
Cunningham, 24, is accused of attempting to cause the death of a security guard in the vicinity of Crown Square on Eastern Avenue on Feb. 20 during an attempted armed robbery of an armored vehicle. Other charges include wounding with intent and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
Mr. Hughes said he knew the charges were serious, but he indicated that under the circumstances he was letting the Crown know he was minded to make an application for bail. The matter was adjourned until June 16.
An awaited psychiatric report also figured in the case of Joseph Alexander Williams Jr., who is charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to a woman near the George Town Post Office on April 12.
Defense attorney Prathna Bodden told the court that a fitness to plead report had been ordered for her client, and that he has an appointment – for July. She said the court would be aware that the production of the report could take another three months.
Ms. Bodden noted there are a number of psychiatrists on island – some working at Northward Prison – and she wondered why the process was taking so long. She said Williams, 21, is desperate to know what was going on, calling her every day asking, “When is the doctor coming? When is the doctor coming?” His family is also concerned, she said.
Justice Quin said that unlike the Cunningham case, the court had received word about Williams. “I think we’re all sympathetic to how busy the doctors and nurses are, but …. ”
He agreed to have Williams brought back to court on June 16. Maybe the defendant would get an earlier appointment, “but let’s not jeopardize the July date,” he said.