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CAFRA TT statement on administration of justice in relation to Yugge Farrell

CAFRA TT statement on administration of justice in relation to Yugge Farrell

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CAFRA Trinidad and Tobago joins in the expressions of concern and alarm over the treatment of 22-year-old Yugge Farrell by the administration of justice in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We take note that Yugge Farrell was charged with using abusive, insulting and offensive language against the spouse of the Minister of Finance, who is also the son of the Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs and with whom she has alleged that she had been in a relationship.

As an organization committed to confronting unequal power relations between women and men, between the state and individuals and inequalities in society, CAFRA TT is troubled by this case. We wonder whether the police of St Vincent and the Grenadines routinely charge the many persons who insult or curse each other in public places. And if not, as we suspect, we ask what were the considerations of the police in charging this 22-year-old woman. We wonder why the resources and the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions were engaged with this rather minor charge. We question why Ms Farrell was sent to a mental health institution for observation, when she indicated that she intended to plead not guilty and was represented by an attorney.

Many women’s rights and social justice advocates across the region following this case are questioning whether the administration of justice has functioned in a non-biased and fair manner. We seek to understand the motivations for what seems to be a disproportionate wielding of state power against this young woman.

Given the persons involved in this case, directly or indirectly, and the tremendous differences in positional power among them, the responsibility is on the State to show how the conduct of this case, from investigation, charging and prosecution was consistent with other cases of this type. The police and the prosecution have a rule of law obligation to show how their pursuit of this case was ‘as usual’ and not, by contrast, extraordinary and targeted.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, like other Caribbean countries, has a high per capita rate of sexual violence. Domestic violence is prevalent, with very few charges laid by the police and even fewer perpetrators prosecuted. Yet a 22-year-old woman, using what can only be described as very mild language in the context of the sexualized and violent invective women hear every day on our streets, has been exposed to the heavy hand of the law. She was deprived of her liberty for three weeks in a mental health institution before she was granted bail. This charge hangs over her head with the case adjourned to December 2018.

CAFRA TT expresses its solidarity with Yugge Farrell and all social justice advocates following this case across the Caribbean. We call for an independent inquiry by the relevant authorities into the administration of justice’s conduct of this case.

5 February 2018

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