PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Ms. Yasmeiri Wilson-Ramos Abreu (hereinafter: Abreu) had to appear in front of the judge of the Court in First Instance of Sint Maarten on May 27, 2021, to handle her criminal case lodged by the Prosecutor against her.
According to the Prosecutor, Abreu is a suspect of attempted manslaughter and/or attempted murder by trying to throw a hot pot from the stove at her mother and at the boyfriend of her mother. Furthermore, according to the Prosecutor, Abreu pushed her mother with force against a police vehicle after the police arrived at the house due to the aforementioned incident. Last, the Prosecutor suspects Abreu of having threatened an employee at her mother’s restaurant by demanding her to give her an amount of money, and that Abreu would stab the employee in the eyes if the employee would not give the money to her.
At said hearing of her criminal case, Abreu was not present to handle her case in the presence of her attorney, Safira Ibrahim. The absence of Abreu is due to her medical condition, which requires the necessary medical treatment and guidance.
During the criminal investigation it became evident that Abreu has a medical history of mental issues. According to Abreu, she is suffering from depression, but has a good mental state. Relevant parties state different, and voice their concern, as they have experienced the behavior of Abreu only becoming worse over the last couple of years. According to relevant parties, situations of aggression and threats of Abreu towards her mother have occurred on numerous occasions. Subsequently, the mental state of Abreu was assessed by a doctor, whereby it was concluded that there are indications that Abreu is mentally not stable. As a result, relevant parties are of the opinion that Abreu needs mental help and guidance to prevent a next situation from escalating.
Given the aforementioned, relevant parties have engaged medical treatment for the mental condition of Abreu in order to stabilize and from thereon, improve said mental condition. Due to the fact that Abreu has received mental treatment and guidance at an institution in the Dominican Republic in the past, the relevant parties decided it would be in the best interest of Abreu to undergo treatment there again. Resulting in the fact that Abreu self was not present at the court hearing. Her attorney Ibrahim however, was present as stated above.
On behalf of Abreu, Ibrahim presented the medical history and current medical situation of Abreu to the Court; stating as well, that it is unfortunate that Sint Maarten is not sufficiently equipped with the medical facilities required in extreme matters. Both the judge and the Prosecutor took the personal circumstances and medical history of Abreu into account, as the ill-treatment and threatening could be proven. Abreu has been acquitted from attempted manslaughter / attempted murder, as there was no sufficient evidence in the file to find it proven that Abreu committed those acts.
Based on all that was presented by both the Prosecutor and the attorney in Court, the judge imposed a sentence to Abreu consisting of community service for 80 hours with 40 days detention in the event Abreu does not complete the 80 hours of community service, and with a probation period of 2 years. In imposing said sentence, the judge took the personal circumstances, the mental state and the current treatment of Abreu into consideration, whereby it was assessed as a positive circumstance that Abreu is now getting the necessary treatment for her mental condition.
Attorney Safira Ibrahim on a personal note: As is seen for years in practice, some clients are being referred to mental health institutions located in Curacao (such as Klinika Capriles and FOBA) or another country abroad, which is deemed well equipped for the severity and nature of the mental illness. In Sint Maarten the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is the designated mental health clinic to provide treatment and guidance for those who are suffering from a mental illness.
However, situations arose in which there was a lack of space or a lack of experts at MHF due to which people suffering from a mental illness could not receive the adequate treatment in Sint Maarten. Resulting in severe situations, such as committing criminal acts in a troubled mental state or having to undergo the necessary treatment abroad. For years several attorneys have addressed the serious problem of an equipped mental health institution in Sint Maarten before the Court and other – legal – authorities, whereby reference was made to the ‘TBS-kliniek’ in the Netherlands as an example.
Many of our clients are in dire need of mental help. However, many of our clients are not aware of such due to the mental illness, or they simply do not know how or where to seek help. This does not only affect them, but also their relatives and the society of Sint Maarten as a whole, as the consequences of not receiving proper / adequate help can lead to alienation from a safety net and deviation from the justice system. Resulting in endangering their own health and well being, endangering the health and well being of others, and – in the extreme case – facing the risk of detention.
The latter not being suitable for someone suffering from a mental illness and which will only worsen the mental state. And once released, the matter will only have become worse. Because whilst serving a sentence in a prison cell may serve the interest of society, it does not serve the interest of the detainee suffering from mental issues. And in the end, it serves no purpose at all, as those who are ‘broken’ never got the chance to be ‘fixed’ in the first place. It cannot and may not be that the country of Sint Maarten is not – sufficiently – equipped to provide the adequate and necessary treatment to those who are in need of such.
Therefore, on behalf of my clients, my colleagues, our clients, their relatives, our justice system, our country and you, I am not requesting, but demanding a shift of focus to protect the society of country Sint Maarten; not by extending what we already have, meaning more cell capacity, but by building what is needed, meaning a solid foundation for those who require special attention and treatment. Not only will they benefit from this, but we, country Sint Maarten, will benefit from it as a whole.
Ms. Safira Ibrahim is an attorney specialized in criminal law, and in addition focuses on the general law practice. She has been practicing law in Sint Maarten from 2011 and holds her office at ‘SI Legal’ and is associated with the law office ‘The LawFirm’.