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Ex-cop finally free after 31 years lost in prison system

Published:Thursday | June 6, 2019 | 12:23 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

The State could face legal action following yesterday’s release of ex-cop 61-year-old Walter Blackstock, who spent 31 years in prison without standing trial and having not entered a guilty plea for murder.

His release comes after a psychiatric evaluation stated that the risk to endangering himself and family is minimal if he is medicated. Blackstock was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2016.

He was initially granted bail last week when he appeared in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.

As promised, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn entered a nolle prosequi to formally discontinue the matter, having regard to the time Blackstock had already spent behind bars.

To allay concerns relating to Blackstock’s care when he returns home, head of psychiatric services at the Southern Regional Health Authority Dr Doreth Garvey assured the court that he would have access to psychiatric treatment.

Answering questions posed by Nancy Anderson, an attorney-at-law and human-rights activist, Garvey told the court that the May Pen Hospital has a mental health clinic that Blackstock could attend.

She, however, said that while the pharmacy provides medication free of cost, it is not always available. In these instances, the family would have to get medication at private pharmacies, she advised.

The DPP also posed questions, asking Garvey if counselling is offered to the family in such cases.

“We certainly do,” the mental health expert said. “We are having great challenges and are emphasising the family involvement. This increases the likelihood of the patient coming to the clinic.”

The psychiatrist also said that there are systems in place to deal with crises when they arise.

Blackstock’s case is a grim reminder of a Gleaner exposé on then 78-year-old Alfred Nettleford, also called Ivan Barrows, who was released in 2001 after spending nearly 30 years in prison without trial for breaking a window. Nettleford, a schizophrenic who was represented by Anderson, received a $9-million award from the court.