The Cheryl Miller Story: Takeaways

Cheryl Miller, right, leaves St Ann’s Hospital - PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

The bizarre case of Cheryl Miller has been unfolding in Trinidad and Tobago over the last two weeks to the amazement of many. It seems incredible that in 2012 a government employee could be whisked away by authorities and committed to a mental institution. Yet this is what happened to Cheryl Miller, an employee of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. Rational thinking would suggest if there is a problem at the office that the next of kin would be alerted to determine next steps.

Thankfully by a court order Cheryl Miller was released from St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital this evening (7/04/2012).

Relevant links:

It is unclear what happened at the ministry on the day which led to Miller’s committal to St. Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. According to the buzz Cheryl Miller, a public servant, may have found some infelicities (she is an accounts clerk) and when she reported it to the Permanent Secretary and or Minister and got a poor response she made her voice heard. Maybe she had a bad hair day and had a ‘few words’ for her supervisor. The bottomline is that in either of the scenarios the end result should not be Miller finding herself in a mental hospital. One does not have to wait until the dust is settled in this case to surmise that there has been a wanton abuse of power by a government dispenses through its agent the Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development. One is not committed to a mental institution without harm to personal reputation.

The case of Cheryl Miller comes at a time when Barbados is advocating for transparency legislation with little success. While Barbadians like to believe we live in a democracy, it is apparent that a small percentage of the population is responsible for greatly influencing most decisions.  A legislative framework which would lend rigour to citizen advocacy is a necessary safety net. The Miller case shows there is a very low fence which protects John Citizen from abuse of the power of the state.

Barbadians need to awake from a state of thinking that the success of the country is located in how the GDP indicator move. We have to become more aware of the need to participate in our democracy in a meaningful way to ensure rights and freedoms are protected. It happened in T&T and there is no reason why Barbados may not be next if we do nothing.

0 thoughts on “The Cheryl Miller Story: Takeaways

  1. For those of you who think that it won’t happen here: think again, it has already happened here. For once Barbados is in the lead: T&T is just catching up. Hal Taylor was taken off to the Psychiatric Hospital from his job at the Ministry of Public Works in the Pine. He was only released when his lawyer intervened and they discovered that the actual outpatient from the Black Rock institution was Hal Lesley Taylor, while the man that was taken from MTW was Hal Wesley Taylor.

    I will not go any further as the matter is sub judice. If you want further details the case is 419 of 2011 Hal Taylor v Ministry Transport and Works, First Respondent: Chief Personnel Officer, Second Respondent: Public Service Commission, Third Respondent: Attorney General, Fourth Respondent

  2. … and here is another instance of mistaken identity.

    Mr. Ward was hauled out of his home at the crack of dawn and spirited to Harrison’s Point.

    The Taxpayers (you and me) had to look for $50,000 plus to settle this one.

    Here is some of his story:

    “13. … On the 1st day of July 2005 at approximately 6.00 am I was awoken to the sounds of persons banging on my windows and doors and shouting the words “In dey – in dey, get up!”

    14. I responded to these persons and told them “stop, don’t break down the house, I am coming”. I proceeded to answer their calls whilst dressed in a T-shirt and boxer shorts and slippers. On making my way out of my bedroom I counted about 6 heads at every window, all the while the same person continued to bang and shout at me. I asked what business they had with me and the response was “is your name Anthony Ward?” And I said “yes”. They said “what is your middle initial” and I said “R for Ricardo.” They said “open up this door – we have come for you”.

    15. I attempted to explain to them that they had the wrong man, that I didn’t live here in Barbados and that there was another Anthony Ward living up the hill. They didn’t listen, even though I tried to explain by stating to them that I was in Barbados on vacation and I am going to get my passport for them to look at it, to see that I don’t live in Barbados and that I was there on vacation and that I was who I said I was.

    16. I was told that they “don’t want to see the passport; open up the door and that they had been looking for me for quite some time”. I said – “but who is in charge here? Can I speak to the person in charge?” (All of this conversation was taking place through windows and the door). The response I receive was that “we are all in charge”.

    17. One guy elected to show me what he claimed to be an ID which looked like something he had made. It was a short folder approximately 4” x 5” in diameter and when he passed it to me through the security bars I commented that “it looked like something you made.”

    18. At this point the females in the group started to raise their voices and started banging again. I said “look you have got the wrong person”. At that point in time I heard the back door being banged and kicked and when I heard that I took up my cell phone and I tried to reach an acquaintance of mine…to see whether he could advise me what was going on. While I was dialling the Operator, that is when I heard the security gate and a piece of steel fall on the floor and when I looked down the corridor, there was a bunch of them coming towards me, so I raised my hands in the air, one of which was holding the cell phone. One guy in particular with red eyes, he held me and slammed me up to the wall and he pulled my hands and placed them behind my back and then handcuffed me and then slammed the handcuffs into my lower back causing me considerable pain.

    19. I was roughed up a bit and dragged about by the handcuffs down the corridor and through the back door and when they got in the middle of the yard, I was dragged continuously and I got a couple of punches in the process. They said to me that I gave them a lot of trouble to find me and they heard that I go and come and that they were looking for me for quite some time. They were specific in that they said they had been looking for me for over 3 months. While all that was going on, I kept protesting “you have got the wrong man”, but it fell on deaf ears.

    20. Upon being dragged out of the house, I was led into the yard, all the while suffering the blows which the Marshals saw fit to inflict on me, in the presence of my neighbours and the beach goers early that morning. At this point, one of the Marshals, who had injured his foot earlier while dragging down my steel door, began to charge at me and it took 8 other Marshals to restrain him, because he wanted to beat me up, worse than what they had already done.

    21. He kept threatening that he was going to get me, even if it was in prison. The other Marshals succeeded in restraining him and placed me into the van and the handcuffs were very painful because I was being pulled by the handcuffs.

    22. All throughout this time I was still holding on to my cell phone. The Marshall that was restrained, had cooled off somewhat but he came to the window and pointed at me and said “I am going to hurt you bad, even if I have to come to the prison to hurt you”.

    23. When I entered the van there were 2 other individuals already in there…I requested of the female Marshall sitting in front of me, whether it was possible to remove the handcuffs, as I was in great pain.”

    (ii) The journey

    [10] The Marshals denied the plaintiff’s request. They proceeded to two other locations in St. Michael, where they picked up other persons, before going to Central Police Station. Approximately, seven minutes later, the van departed for Harrison’s Point. There is no evidence that the plaintiff left the van when it was at Central Police Station.

    [11] The further evidence is that, en route to the prison, the other detainees were allowed to use their mobile phones but the Marshals refused to allow the plaintiff to telephone his sister. When he asked a female Marshal why he was being discriminated against in this way, she threatened that if he did not shut up he would be taken onto a “cart road” and beaten. He took the threat seriously and remained silent.

    (iii) The Harrison’s Point experience

    [12] On arrival at the prison, the handcuffs were removed from the plaintiff. He protested his innocence to uniformed personnel at various security checkpoints but the Court Marshals told them that he had been lying from the time they picked him up and that he was the person whom they were after.

    [13] The plaintiff details the events after he had cleared the security checkpoints at paragraphs 27 to 39 of the affidavit. These provide as follows:

    “27… [W]e went into an area where a Clerk was sitting at a desk and he asked the Marshall what was my reason for being there. He said they had been looking for me for quite some time – months – and that I owed the court some money and that I had fled.

    28. The prison Officer said to me “what happened?” and I recounted the morning’s events at my house with the Marshals and kept protesting that I was innocent.

    29. By this time I discovered that a person with a similar name to mine owed the court the sum of $803.49 and in my attempt to prove that I was not the individual I suggested that they escort me back to my house and allow me to retrieve my passport which would prove that I was not in Barbados at the time this other Anthony Ward was charged.

    30. The Prison Officer said to me that that was not possible. The only thing he could do for me was to allow me a phone call. I said “okay; let us call my sister Peggy.” I told the Prison Officer that she worked for Inner Chambers. He looked in the telephone directory and he could not find it and he called Directory Enquiries and they could not find it either. He said “well, look, I am going to have to put you in a cell until I can get the correct number to call your sister. “

    31. They had 9 guys in this holding cell and when I walked into the holding cell, these 9 guys were looking at me up and down because I had walked in there in boxer shorts and T-shirt I said to them that “I am here but I am innocent” and they started to laugh and one guy said “yes, we too”.

    32. After 2 hours I needed to go to the bathroom so I called out to one of the prison guards and I said “I wanted to use the bathroom” and he said “you have got to wait.” I asked “how long” and he said “about 1 hour.” I said “how?”

    33. In about ½ hour he came back with a pretty nasty looking bucket. It looked as though it had been used for mixing concrete and the liquid inside smelled like some kind of disinfectant. The guard said “to step back” and when I saw the bucket I told him “I don’t want to use the bathroom anymore.” However, one of the guys took it and used it in my presence.

    34. About 20 minutes after that happened the prison guard said he had got the right number but it was busy. He said he was going to keep trying. After he said that another 10 minutes later I was taken to get medicals, as they were planning to keep me.

    35. The nurse and Clerk questioned me as to my medical history. Somewhere along the line they thought I was crazy because I kept saying I was innocent. One of the ladies asked me if I had ever had a nervous breakdown and I said “no way, never have”.

    36. That is when I got really concerned that I would be there for a while so I told them that I had very bad allergies and that I used some nose spray and they told me that they don’t stock the items I use. After taking the medical history I was escorted back to the main area where the Prison Officer was, who was making attempts to reach Inn Chambers.

    37. There were two other men with me and they were issued with a set of blue shorts, blue t-shirts, a bar of soap, a roll of toilet paper and a tooth brush and each of them were handed these items.

    38. When it was my turn, the Clerical Prison Officer said that he had reached Inn Chambers but that my sister was busy and to hold off being given these blues, so I was returned to the holding cell.

    39. I was back in there for about 2 hours and then one of the guards came and said that my sister was contacted and that she pretty much reiterated to the Clerical Officer that they had definitely got the wrong man and that they had some problems. I was told that my sister would have had to pay the outstanding balance of the fine in order to get me out. This sum was $803.49. After 2 hours Peggy arrived and I was taken out of the cell and was held in an area with the Clerical Officer for another ½ an hour. Then I was led back passed the Check Points that I had been through before I reached outside. I met my sister Peggy who was standing on the outside in tears and I myself was not in good shape considering all I had been through.

    [14] The plaintiff later discovered that his sister had to pay $803.49 before he could be released. He received no refund of this money which he repaid his sister. He received no apology. At no time throughout his period of detention was he advised of his right to consult an Attorney-at-law.

    • @John and Caswell

      What happened to Cheryl Miller as reported was not a case of mistaken identity.

  3. David Icke, in his book – and the truth shall set you free – on page 373, Chapter 14, titled the psychological fascism – had this to say: “Most people have no idea how easy the law makes it for you to be imprisoned in a mental institution. It really is so easy. A friend of mine who was going through a traumatic spiritual awakening (he was seeing the world for what it really is) was pressured by his family to agree to attend a private mental hospital. He chose to go for their sake. But when he decided to leave the hospital after chatting with the doctors, he was forcibly stopped. He was also forced to take drugs. What the staff at that hospital were doing was perfecly legal. Once you agree to have treatment at such a place, you lose all your rights to leave if the staff decide that you should not. As the doctors at that level of the profession have largely no idea about the nature of the psyche, despite being called “psychiatrists”, they can imprison you and force you to take drugs to “treat” quite normal phenomena. If we are not vigilant, the excuse of “mental illness” will be used to intern those who say they can communicate with other frequencies (“schizophrenia”) and those who claim there is a global conspiracy (“paranoia”). Someone like me who talks about both becomes a “paranoid schizophrenic”, which is exactly how they imprisoned dissenters in the psychiatric hospitals of the Soviet Union”.

    We in the PDC remember the late David Thompson when he was a young lawyer/parliamentarian in the 1980s castigating some Magistrates in Barbados then for sending accused persons to the mental hospital in Black Rock for no apparent reasons, in his view, at those times.

    Also, on many occasions, we have been in positions to hear many allegations from different young Barbadian men who would have gone down there at the Psychiatric Hospital in Black Rock at various times in the recent past, of how they would have been taken down there against their will by the Police Department in Barbados, significantly because they would have become ( whatever the triggers could have been) some what aggressive, violent and uncontrollable ( more like being hot headed but certainly NOT MAD) in domestic situations.

    In these particular cases, as told to us, no laws of the government were broken.

    Such young men would have gone on to reveal how their parents would have resorted to calling the police for them, letting the police know what was taking place and asking them to come and take their sons to the “mental” ( we would have thought that the parents might have done so probably because they might have feared for their own safety, or would have feared damage being done to their homes, or would have feared those incidents becoming escalated, or because those sons had histories of meting out violece to some others, so it was like the parents would have been protecting themselves by getting the police to come).

    Anyhow, these persons would have alleged how on the police arriving and taking them away to the “mental”, how the police would then have turned them over ( we would not have been told by the young men if any paper work was done in each instance) to the “mental” officers down there, who would later have been able to subdue them, and would have been able to – against their will – give them injections – the relevant amount of psychiatric drug treatment – as we would have come to realize already, as they would have been relaying their stories to us, to apparently bring them quickly under a measure of control.

    So, after having spent very short times down there – a day or two – after the treatments, or experimentations, they would have told us how they were released to go back home.

    But this time around, these persons that we would have known for some while, would have been walking and looking like robots, walking pretty stiffedly, with their arms slightly ahead of them and positioned in semi-fixed fashion, and their heads and eyes angled straight ahead, not being able to recognize us.

    And thus we would have known somethings were definitely wrong with them, or the psychiatric treatment, or manner in which they were abducted by police and taken to the “mental”, or all three.

    Does the Mental Health Act sanction such happenings, as relayed to us by those young men, is what we really wish to know?


    • Are we not confusing a person sent to a mental hospital by the state because of the need possibly ‘quiet the person and the cases cited so far where because the society lacks the appropriate rehabilitative agency uses the mental hospital as an inadequate substitute?

  4. @David (BU) I’m having problems with the three symbols ‘W Twitter Facebook’ and my email address and handle Zoe, coming UP into the posting ‘window’ after typing two short paragraphs, overlaying what I’m trying to type, which prevents me from seeing what I’ve written, how can this problem be rectified? Thanks for your help.

  5. The lesser side :
    I do recall while doing law at UWI ..a certain lady law lecturer…being held in contempt of Court and spending a few days at Station Hill..for her hasty tongue……Who polices the State ? How far right is left ?…..

  6. David,

    We do not fully understand your question.

    In what contexts are you referring to the matter of Barbados lacking the appropriate rehabilitative agency? What type of rehabilitation are you talking about? How does the Psychiatric Hospital come into use as an inadequate substitute in such circumstances?

    Lest we get more confused.


  7. These stories are unbelievable to say the least and frightening at best!A person not giving an opportunity to prove their true identity and is condemned outside the walls of a justice system that is supposed to protect the rights of the innocent is not only reprehensible but is a failure of a judicial systems which has run a mock and has resorted to ‘ by any means necessary” as a way to an end.

  8. @ Zoe

    I’ve experienced the same problem – but I think it’s when there’s a lot of comments in the post. David?

  9. I do vague recall……..correct me RR…..she was also thought of as overly eccentric, and closer to mad..a deMauirea..comes to mind…foreigner too I think…..25 years is a long time. Natural death I hope…so she took the case to High Court and it was an outside settlement ?

    • @PDC

      An employee who has had a bad hair day e.g. an anxiety attack or some mild condition should not merit committal in a mental asylum. Often times we are too hasty to condem a person acting out a ‘strange’ behaviour as mad.


      If you are using ‘dialup (God forbid) or a slow ADSL connection it will have the effect of slowing down the loading of a page which has many comments. If you try to post before the page is done loading you will experience the issue you described.

  10. @ John

    Some of our judges are of the highest quality – and it is clear from a reading of the case you cite – for which thankyou – that the Ag Judge is one of them.

  11. @ Old Onion

    Yes, she was a wonderful person and very kind in her heart – though she could be ‘difficult’ even with those she was fond of. Yes, natural causes. She used to boast that the State had paid for her house to be built!

    When I read you first I thought you were referring to another case where a law lecturer was arrested. Now that one too had a very interesting sequel.

  12. Thanks David, yes, I only have the slowest ADSL connection; however, this morning I’d just written two short paragraphs, when this problem occured!

  13. David


    But you started the post with a quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) which applies to all identities, I think mistaken also!

    • As an update. Seems as if the State may be liable as a result of the actions of the Permanent Secretary who ordered Cheryl Miller’s committal.

      Dumas: State on shaky ground in case

      By CAROL MATROO Sunday, April 8 2012

      Former head of the Public Service, Reginald Dumas, wants to know what qualifications the person/s who called mental health workers to cart away Cheryl Miller from her workplace to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital have. He said yesterday he was stumped over whose authority and orders could have led to the assistant accountant being removed from her workplace.

      Miller was forcibly taken away from her work place at the Ministry of Gender,Youth and Child Development, on the 21st floor of Tower D on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, and taken to St Ann’s on March 21. She was only released from the facility on Good Friday following an order from the Port-of-Spain High Court
      “The minister has said that she did not make the call and that she takes full responsibility, that’s fine, but if the minister instructed the permanent secretary or any senior officer to call, then the minister could be held legally responsible too because the question would be asked on what basis did you do that? And did you do that while conforming to the law?” Dumas said.

      “We have to know who in the ministry requested this and why … who were the psychiatric experts. We don’t know who made the call. What were the qualifications of the people who made the call and who gave the instruction.”

      He added, “The question arises ‘who made the judgement that she needed treatment at St Ann’s … who in the ministry made that judgement?”

      Dumas said despite all that was now in the public domain about the incident, he believed there were gaps still in the story involving Miller. However, he said it still seems that the ministry may have breeched the Mental Health Act.

      “On the basis of what I’ve read, it seems to me that the Mental Health Act has been breeched, it would seem to me that her constitutional rights have been breeched,” Dumas said.

      “It would seem to me that the Mental Health Act has been violated in this case, in that she was not picked up in a public place, she was not wandering about and there appears to be no letter from her practitioner that she should be admitted to St Ann’s.

      “It would seem to me that no previous effort was made to have her counselled by a psychologist. I have not heard of any previous incident of mental instability, so it’s all very strange and now we hear that she was taken to St Ann’s and given medication because she had a chemical imbalance. … I don’t know what that means.” Dumas said it was difficult for him to make a judgement, however, since all the facts were still not present. He said he was apprised of some altercation between Miller and her co-workers. However, he was concerned about the manner in which she was escorted from the building.

      “I haven’t come across anyone who has all the facts in the matter. It’s very difficult to make a judgement in the absence of all the facts. What I have read is there was some altercation in the ministry and the lady was accusing people of bad talking her and discrimination. What I am reading … I don’t know if that version is factual or not, because we do not seem to be able to get the facts, but what we can do is look at the Mental Health Act

      “I don’t know if that version is factual or not because we simply do not have facts … if she was properly removed in accordance with the act, and it seems that when the matter went to court yesterday the attorneys said she was taken under Section 51 of the act which talks about people wandering about in the streets, but clearly she was not wandering about in the streets, she was sitting at her desk, so wandering about in a public place is hardly the same as sitting at your desk in your office.”

      He also claimed the act may have been violated because there was no letter from a medical practitioner.

      Dumas said Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, in his capacity, also could not pass judgement on Miller.

      “I don’t know what his expertise is … as far as I know he is a neurologist, so I don’t know about his ability to interpret psychiatric findings. I don’t know if he is a psychiatrist, maybe he is.”

      He said, however, that if an employee of the Public Service was having problems, there was the Employee Assistance Programme which could handle it.

      “If they knew that this lady was disturbed I would have expected the Permanent Secretary to go to an EAP and see whether she could be helped. I would also have expected, if she was showing any sign of mental instability, a psychologist to be brought in to speak to her and counsel her…I have not heard that these things happened.

      “Therefore the questions arise…who made the judgement that she needed judgement at St Ann’s. We need the full story,” Dumas said.

      Contacted yesterday, attorney Alicia Baksh-Clarke, one of Miller’s attorneys, said the legal team was of the firm view that the Mental Health Act needed to be amended in the wake of this incident. She said, however that their next step would be to file constitutional proceedings against the State.


      Admission by Health Minister that there was a breech of protocol.

      Furious: Fuad Khan

      heads will roll

      Health Minister: Somebody with clout broke protocol in St Ann’s affair

      By Renuka Singh

      Story Created: Apr 7, 2012 at 10:59 PM ECT

      Story Updated: Apr 7, 2012 at 10:59 PM ECT

      Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said people will be fired from one of two Government ministries or the St Ann’s Hospital if his investigation into the Cheryl Miller affair proves there was a breach of protocol in either how she was admitted to the hospital or how she was released from the facility.

      Khan, in a telephone interview yesterday, told the Sunday Express that while he would abide by the High Court’s ruling on Friday, he was doing his own research from both sides of the issue.

      Cheryl Miller, an accounts clerk, was removed from her desk at the Ministry of Gender and Youth Affairs at Tower D of the Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, 15 days ago and placed directly into the St Ann’s Hospital. On Friday, at an emergency High Court sitting, Justice Vashiest Kokaram granted Miller an immediate, but temporary, reprieve and allowed her to spend one week away from the institution.

      She was released in the care of her older brother and sister until her second court visit on Friday. "It would appear that somebody broke protocol and that led to another breach in protocol when the mental health workers went to the Ministry," he said. "Someone has to be held accountable. Either the Ministry of Gender Affairs or the Ministry of Health. Someone with clout broke protocol."

      Khan said while he could not dismiss or discipline anyone, he would refer the matter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to ensure someone paid for the breach.

      He said there were two issues he had to look into: how Miller was brought to the mental institution and why her doctors allowed her to leave.

      Khan maintains Miller is suffering from a clinical psychological issue and needs further medical attention. He said when he spoke with her doctors on Thursday morning, they told him she was not going to be allowed out of the hospital. "I asked them then what would happen if that matter ended up in court and they said even then they would not be able to discharge her because she was in the middle of her treatment. I even asked them if she could be released to family and they said no. So how could that no change to yes in a matter of minutes?" Khan asked.

      He said all the doctors involved in this matter will have to give an answer. "Why did they approve the (High Court’s) release?" he asked, referring to the legal case which allowed Miller to go home.

      Khan said he is expecting a report from hospital seniors. "While I have to abide by the court ruling, I want to know why she was allowed to leave. I want an explanation as to why they changed their position so quickly," he said.

      He said the findings of both sides of the investigation will be turned over to the head of the PSC and he will follow "whatever action they deem fit".

  14. I would imagine the lady’s legal representatives are licking their chops …. the TT Government is who let it be known far and wide how rich it is.

  15. Pingback: Trinidad & Tobago: Madness in the Ministry :: Elites TV

  16. @david

    we are very uncaring. quite recently i witnessed someone’s behaviour in the work place had changed and pleaded with some of the person’s friends to seek help, rather than seek assitance for the individaul they were talking behind the person’s back. However the necessary help was sought and the person is in a lot better shape now.

    sometimes people might be experiencing a stressful situation and early intervention could prevent long term consequences. Clearly, the person responsible for human resource manageemnt, if trained would have recognized that there is an underlying problem and should have sought counselling for the individual.


    wrting a blog is becoming problematic, i am getting hernia navigating this space.

  17. @blogger

    Have been getting some complaints, you page is loading slowly because of a slow/poor connection. Wait until the page loads 100% in the mean time will ask Support for some help.

  18. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me.
    Regardless, I’m certainly pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

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