Judge agrees to allow suspect to stay in custody at Waterford Hospital
The lawyer for a man facing sex-related charges expressed outrage Thursday at what she says is the provincial justice system’s mishandling of mentally ill prisoners.
Elijah George will be back in provincial court Dec. 16 for the resumption of his trial. A St. John’s judge agreed to have George remain in custody at the Waterford Hospital in order for him to get proper psychiatric treatment. — File photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
“It’s appalling how they treat (mental-health) patients,” Joan Dawson said.
She made the comments Thursday following proceedings in the case of Elijah George at provincial court in St. John’s.
Dawson filed an application to have George remain in custody at the Waterford Hospital for the duration of his trial so he can get proper psychiatric treatment.
She expressed concerns to the judge about sending her mentally ill client back to the
St. John’s Lockup or Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP), where, she said, he did not receive his medication.
Dawson said when George was at the lockup in July, “they forgot to give him his medication.” When he was recently at HMP, she said the institute’s psychiatrist, Dr. David Craig, took George off the medication prescribed for him at the Waterford Hospital by
Dr. Nazir Ladha, the province’s top forensic psychiatrist.
“Given that history, we ask that he stay at the Waterford Hospital in order to get proper treatment so he can complete the process of his trial,” Dawson said.
Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten had no issue with the request, which was then granted by Judge Colin Flynn.
His trial will resume Dec. 16. George will be in court for proceedings, but will return to the Waterford Hospital after each court appearance.
George — who is originally from Nigeria and has lived in Canada since last year — is charged with sexually assaulting a nurse and assaulting another nurse while he was a patient on the psychiatric ward of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s in May.
He had been a patient there for about a month when he was arrested.
He’s also charged with voyeurism for reportedly peeking under bathroom stalls of the women’s washroom, which was outside the psychiatric unit.
Midway through his trial last month, proceedings were interrupted when George displayed inappropriate behaviour in court, laughing and showing signs of distraction. As a result, at Dawson’s request, the court ordered a psychiatric assessment. The trial has been in hiatus until George’s assessment could be completed.
On Thursday, the court was told George was deemed mentally fit to stand trial.
However, Dawson said to ensure her client has no further problems, it’s crucial that he get his medication.
While the nature of George’s mental illness was not revealed, Dawson said it’s serious enough to warrant treatment, which she said he can’t get from the HMP doctor.
Craig’s controversial medical practices at HMP was the subject of an independent review last year. Questions had been raised formally about Craig’s service since at least 2008.
In the spring of 2011, citizens’ representative Barry Fleming issued a report on the situation and recommended that Craig be replaced as prison psychiatrist.
The government ordered a peer review of Craig’s service before taking any action. That review took a year and a half to complete.
In the end, Craig’s conservative prescribing practices were supported.
However, outside court, Dawson told reporters Craig’s practices are still having a devastating effect on mentally ill prisoners.
“For a psychiatrist at the pen to ignore the recommendations of the province’s top forensic psychiatrist, who prescribed certain medication, is terrible. (Craig) should have to consult with Dr. Ladha,” said Dawson, who added George’s case is being prolonged as a result of how he was treated.
And to make matters worse, she said, George is from another country and has no family support here.
“There are cultural and language differences,” she said. “The only advocate he has is myself.”