‘Funds available to facilitate progress of psychiatric evaluations and autopsies’ – Hurst

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Trade unionists looking to empower their members gathered at the headquarters of the Antigua Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) for the first time in five years on Thursday, hoping to regroup and to create a working plan to deal with employment issues post the Covid pandemic. (photo credit ABWU)
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By Orville Williams

[email protected]

Delays in completing psychiatric evaluations and autopsies within the court and law enforcement systems can be “easily” addressed in cases where finances are causing the holdup – that’s the word from government spokesperson, Lionel Hurst.

That assertion was in response to the number of court cases and police investigations that have been pending for months, as officials await the outcome of these evaluations and analyses, many of which have to be conducted abroad due to the lack of adequate resources locally.

One example is of Michael Cummins, a father who is undergoing an excruciating wait to find out whether charred human remains found after a fire destroyed three Nut Grove properties are of his teenage son, who has not been seen since the incident.

A DNA sample was taken from Cummins for analysis and comparison, but he has yet to receive any confirmation nearly six months after the fact.

Psychiatrists have also previously lamented the tardy pace of payments for evaluations carried out for the purposes of criminal prosecutions.

While Hurst did not refer to any case with specificity, he acknowledged that the government is to blame in certain situations and assured that a source of funding is available to address these concerns.

“What we’ve found is that we sometimes owe, and it makes it a little difficult for some of these institutions to continue to operate without payments being made to them. I believe that is the problem with the psychological evaluations that are required in several instances.

“But when the court orders it, we have no option but to act, and so we sometimes rely upon the resources coming from the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) in order to make good our payments to those who we owe for this kind of service.

“If a court matter that is pending requires such an evaluation to be done, I would not be surprised if we turn to the National Development Fund (NDF) within the CIP to make good on any obligations that we might owe. So, if that is the problem, then it is easily solvable,” Hurst explained.

Despite his acknowledgement, Hurst noted too that the delays are not always a result of payment issues, with the workload of the professionals tasked with completing the work another challenge.

“Sometimes, those people who are conducting these kinds of evaluations are so very busy that they must stagger their interviews and other kinds of evaluation procedures in order to get to a current [case],” he said.

The government has previously voiced its intention to address some of these challenges in the long term by investing in the construction of a forensic lab, thus reducing the dependence on overseas services.

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