INSANE killer Selwyn Dillon was dumped and forgotten at the Carrera Island Prison for 20 years. He was convicted of killing his mother Grace, in 1981, but sentenced to the President’s Pleasure as he was found to be insane. He never received treatment for 15 years while incarcerated. He challenged his detention and in 2008, Justice Mustapha Ibrahim ruled that Dillon, then 50, was no longer a threat to society and should be released.
Ibrahim also ordered that Dillon be awarded damages for two periods __ the years when he was kept at Carrera without medication; and the years he had been unlawfully detained after a psychiatric report revealed he should be freed.
An assessment for damages was ordered and in September 2012, Justice Devindra Rampersad ordered the state to pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in vindicatory damages, with interest. Three appellate court judges __ Justices Peter Jamadar, Charmaine Pemberton and Andre des Vignes __ yesterday upheld Rampersad’s assessment on compensatory damages but slashed the vindicatory damages by almost half ($200,000).
The interest ordered from December 12, 2003, works up to $2.4 million, which means Dillon is set to receive over $5 million. Dillon was represented by attorney Gerald Ramdeen while Neil Byam represented the state.
Jamadar, who wrote the ruling, said, “Can $2.5 million ever truly compensate Mr Dillon for what he had to endure? Probably not. However $2.5 million for 20 years of egregiously unconstitutional, neglectful and seemingly unconcerned detention will have to suffice.” He pointed out that Dillon was detained at Carrera Island Prison __ “an isolate austere site in the Gulf of Paria reputedly surrounded by choppy, shark infested waters and a prison generally reserved for the most hardened felons.”
He said although the facility evolved into a more modern correctional institute, it was “presumably the furthest thing from a place of safe custody or place fitting for the care and treatment of a mentally ill person.” Jamadar also said there was no evidence Dillon was treated as a mentally ill person.
“Clearly there has been an unconstitutional detention of Mr Dillon for the entire period of 20 years from the time of the initial order to his release. It must be noted that despite all that went wrong with Mr Dillon’s detention, some good came out of it.” Dillon learned tailoring and attained CXC Ordinary and Advanced Level passes and at one point taught at the prison.
Dillon was charged with murder in 1981. He was found guilty, but insane at the San Fernando Assizes in May 1988 and ordered to be detained at the President’s Pleasure at St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. But he was sent to Carrera Island Prison where he remained until 2003, when his attorneys wrote the Attorney General threatening to commence constitutional proceedings.
A constitutional motion was later filed. The Attorney General requested and received a report from Dr Iqbal Ghany on an assessment done on Dillon. In the report, dated February 26, 2004, Dr Ghany concluded, “this man has not shown any formal mental illness for several years and in my opinion is fit to be released. He will not be a danger to the public.” On January 8, 2008, Ibrahim ordered Dillon’s immediate release.