Availability of drugs in prison threatens to delay justice for Jane Finch

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2014
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Jane Finch – shown with son Jareese – had lived in Antigua for more than four decades
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By Gemma Handy

[email protected]

Access to cannabis at the national prison is threatening to delay justice for homicide victim Jane Finch.

The woman found at the scene when Finch’s body was discovered with stab wounds in her Piccadilly home is continuing to test positive for the drug inside the penal facility, Observer can reveal.

Urine samples taken from Brittany Jno-Baptiste – who has to date only been charged with burglary in connection with the incident last October – have repeatedly confirmed the presence of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

Leaked test reports – which Observer has seen – show Jno-Baptiste was tested on May 16 and again on June 17, days before her most recent court appearance on June 21.

A psychiatric report submitted to the courts on January 24 this year makes multiple links between Jno-Baptiste’s unstable mental state and her “heavy and chronic marijuana use”.

The 10-page report, also leaked to Observer, states that the now 22-year-old defendant has been smoking for several years.

“Her history and reported symptoms at the time of the alleged murder/burglary meet criteria for cannabis use disorder and cannabis-induced psychotic disorder,” it notes, adding that a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, which can cause hallucinations and delusions, is also under consideration.

It’s no secret that cannabis is widely available within the walls of 1735.

And because urine tests can detect its presence for more than a month after heavy use, fears are now rife that it will mean further delays to the case. The Director of Public Prosecutions has previously pointed out that a defendant must understand the nature of the charge they are facing.

Continued smoking of the drug “does not help Jno-Baptiste’s mental state improve as we hoped it would”, psychiatrist Dr James King, who evaluated the defendant in January, told Observer when contacted yesterday.

“Because of having drugs in her system, the follow-up report will be delayed until her urine tests show that she’s clean,” he said.

 He explained that while the defendant has been receiving prescribed medication in prison, the presence of any illicit substance would mean the evaluation’s accuracy could be questioned.

The case against Jno-Baptiste was last week adjourned until July 14.

In his January 24 report, Dr King recommended she be re-evaluated in six months. Questions linger then over why the case was brought back before the court more than a month before that timeframe had passed.

The hope had previously been that the case would proceed in July, by which time the defendant might have demonstrated “the mental capacity” to stand trial.

Dr King had also recommended Jno-Baptiste receive “appropriate medication and care” in the interim at Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, if the court felt it was appropriate.

But with the hospital packed to capacity, she was instead remanded to prison.

Dr King concedes that 1735 is not the only institution in which illicit drugs can be obtained, but points out that Clarevue’s specialist staff, larger workforce and routine testing increase the likelihood of them being intercepted.

How officials will proceed now is unclear.

Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Armstrong told Observer yesterday that it would be up to the court to decide whether Jno-Baptiste should be transferred to the psychiatric facility.

He said he was not privy to information about the defendant’s drug use, but added, “In any event, if she is discovered smoking marijuana, the medical doctor assigned to Her Majesty’s Prison should make the necessary intervention.

“A psychiatric evaluation is critical to this case,” Armstrong stressed. “Without that it’s virtually impossible to move forward.”

Medics have long linked cannabis use to psychotic disorders. The last two decades have seen extensive research on the association between the two, particularly as marijuana continues to increase in potency.

A report published last year in the Psychiatric Times cites cannabis as one of the most commonly used substances by patients with schizophrenia and related psychoses.

The US Department of Health says smoking high-potency marijuana daily can increase the chances of developing psychosis by almost five times.

Dr King himself has also publicly lamented the widespread use of weed on young people’s mental wellbeing.

Meanwhile, the agonising wait for justice for Finch’s devastated relatives continues.

Finch’s sister Joanna told Observer on Tuesday that the family would “wait patiently” and that they retained faith in the system.

“We are united as a family. We are very strong and feel grateful for the support we are getting from Antigua and Jane’s friends all over the world,” she said.

“There’s a lot of love that’s come forward because of Jane’s death and we are grateful for that and we believe justice will be served.”

Joanna Finch previously described her sister as her “rock” and one “full of love, kindness and generosity”.

Canadian-born Finch – a 66-year-old writer, sailor and tour rep – had lived in Antigua for more than 40 years and was a well-known face around the English Harbour community.

Prison officials could not be reached for comment up to news time last night.

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