Mentally ill teenager jailed for grandmother’s death

The High Court has sentenced 18-year-old Joshua Mitchell to spend approximately 11 years behind bars at the Richmond Hill prison for causing the November 2014 death of his 84-year-old grandmother of Birchgrove in St. Andrew.

The sentence was handed down by High Court Judge Justice Shiraz Aziz on Tuesday at High Court No. 5 on The Carenage in St. George’s.

Mitchell’s grandmother, Dorril Mitchell was discovered dead by one of her son’s who was on one of his regular visits to the Birchgrove residence.

A post mortem conducted on the body concluded  that she died as a result of asphyxia by strangulation.

Mitchell, who was described as a mentally unstable man, pleaded guilty in November to the indictable charge of non-capital murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

In determining the sentence the Trinidad-born Justice Aziz used the notional benchmark of 30 years and credited the teenager, for the close to three years he has already spent on the remand block at the Richmond Hill Prison.

Mitchell, who was represented by attorney-at-law,  Ashley Bernadine, had admitted to police investigators that he had a physical altercation with his grandmother, but did not acknowledge knowing of the damages he had caused as a result.

Tuesday’s court proceedings revealed that Mitchell told police investigators that he had a fight with his grandmother after she refused to give him something to eat.

The murder accused who has a history of mental illness was diagnosed at the age of 7 with schizophrenia, a mental or psychiatric disorder of behavioural pattern that may cause suffering or poor ability to function in life.

The court was provided with several mental assessments of Mitchell that showed that he reasoned below his age level.

In giving testimony to the court for the purpose of the sentence hearing, Officer in Charge of the Prisons, Inspector Rupert Neckles testified that since Mitchell came to the prison he has improved significantly.

The court expressed concern with certain aspects of the Social Inquiry report.

It was also noted that the Richmond Hill Prison is not the appropriate place to adequately house and rehabilitate mentally ill offenders.

However, Justice Aziz expressed the view that young offenders must be adequately punished.

“There must be a strong message sent that the court would not tolerate this type of behaviour in society,” he declared.

The high court judge also felt that the more seasoned inmates will take advantage of mentally challenged persons being housed at the prison, and that this further highlights the need for adequate facilities to deal with these issues.

“We must ensure that young offenders are reformed and rehabilitated in a safe environment”, said Justice Aziz.

In handing down sentence, the judge credited Mitchell for the 12 months for the delay of the court in hearing the matter, which he pointed out, was no fault of the convicted man.

Justice Aziz determined that the sentence handed down to Mitchell was deserving, taking into account the seriousness of the offence and the mental instability of the young offender.

He agreed to have the young offender remain on the remand block as requested by Attorney Bernadine in mitigating his client’s case.

A psychologist has also been assigned to check up on him once a week to see how he is progressing at the prison.

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