Freed, but still in prison

THE nightmare of being lost in the legal system for close to 20 years is now over for 72-year-old Vernal Walford, but he’s yet to be released because he has nowhere to live.

Hugh Faulkner — executive director of the Legal Aid Council which was instrumental in securing Walford’s freedom — has been trying without success to secure a place for him to stay. Walford has been at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre since 1997.

“We contacted the St Ann Poor Relief Department [and] the Drop-In Centre on Windward Road in Kingston. We contacted Missionaries Of the Poor on Hanover Street in Kingston, the Poor Relief Office also on Hanover Street. We also contacted the service division of the Department of Correctional Services. We made contact with family members of Mr Walford in Nine Mile, St Ann. We still have not been able to locate anyone who is willing to accept him,” Faulkner told the Jamaica Observer.

“We are pleading with family members or any social security facility to assist in finding residence for Mr Walford. They can contact the Legal Aid Council,” Faulkner added.

Walford was arrested for allegedly injuring a nurse at Bellevue Hospital in Kingston. He was eventually declared unfit to plead and his case subsequently fell from the court list.

The Legal Aid Council came to Walford’s assistance on a directive from Justice Minister Mark Golding that the council should aid people with mental issues who have been lost in the system.

In May, the council filed an application in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court to have Walford’s matter relisted. However, the court later dismissed the case against Walford.

Now, the council has asked the court to delay Walford’s release until a place is secured for him to stay.

The court is to be updated on the efforts today.

Faulkner said the Government needs to establish facilities across the island to house people who are in a similar position to Walford’s.


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