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“Police hands are tied when dealing with arsonist who burned down Mary Open Doors shelter in Cayo,” says the Department’s Public Relations Officer

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Posted: Monday, May 23, 2022. 9:05 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: Last week, Mary Open Doors, a shelter for domestic abuse survivors in San Ignacio, Cayo, was burned to the ground, but police say charging the man responsible is difficult because he is believed to be mentally ill.

Head of Communications for the Office of the Commissioner of Police, ASP Fitzroy Yearwood, said today that there are procedures for dealing with mentally ill patients, that extend beyond the police department.

“When dealing with mental patients, our hands are tied,” Yearwood said. “We have to get the permission of the court, where they would have to go in front of a magistrate to say whether or not they are fit to stand trial.”

He also noted that it is difficult to deal with mental patients in Belize because most of the institutions that house mentally ill patients do not have the security measures to keep them from leaving and that they usually end up wandering back into communities they are familiar with.

Police are currently seeking advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on how to approach the culprit of the Mary Open Doors fire. Yearwood acknowledged that there are concerns within the community that the culprit may burn down something else, but that police have to wait for instruction before they can act in this particular situation

“Yes we understand that the community is in fear, but when it comes to the rights of mental patients, we also have to be guided when dealing with these reports,” Yearwood added.

The mentally ill patient was staying on the lower flat of the building, while Rose Buckley and her daughter, who were living in the upper flat, have lost everything they owned.

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