Sunday 12 July, 2020

Magistrate, lawyer chide prosecutor for objecting to bail

A magistrate and a prominent lawyer condemned the "emotive language" used by a prosecutor during objections to an accused woman's bail. 

This unfolded yesterday after accused Sharon Yvette Harris appeared before Magistrate Douglas Frederick in the No.1 District "A" Magistrates' Court. 

Harris, 47, of Bartlett Tenantry, Sargeant Village, Christ Church is accused of stealing a purse for $150 and $250 in cash belonging to Carol Taylor on December 17, 2018.

She pleaded not guilty. 

Policed Constable Kevin Forde objected to bail on a number of grounds. He stated that Harris had a "propensity... to re-offend based on her antecedents". This objection was made even though Harris' last conviction was in 2009. 

"Even though that's the last conviction it does not rule out the possibility of the accused re-offending based on the fact that she has a charge in 2011 over her head," Forde told the court. 

He said the 2011 matter which Harris is currently on bail for was "evidence to show the high propensity for the accused to re-offend and the court frowns on this type of offence". 

"I hope that the court does its upmost best to make sure the accused is remanded into custody," Forde concluded. 

Representing the accused, QC Andrew Pilgrim questioned the status of the 2011 bail matter. 

Harris was given $2,500 bail after pleading not guilty to a similar theft charge. It was heard that a warrant had been issued because she did not appear for some period. 

However, Harris told the magistrate that her "cases were dismissed". 

"In the circumstance that her last charge dates back to 2011 and that nothing has happened whether through the failure of the Crown at some level or otherwise, nothing has happened for the last 8 years," Pilgrim argued. 

"In Barbados, a hiatus of ten years is enough time to have a conviction expunged from your record - so how could you come 10 years after the fact and say she has a propensity and I fear that she will go back and do this when she has no record of doing such for the last ten years. What is the basis of this propensity?" 

The lawyer said there was no indication that Harris would delay justice as she showed up at court after being granted station bail. 

 "In light of such, how do we justify preventing her from remaining at liberty? Given that the convictions are over 10 years old are we to say that with the theft of $400 that she should remain in custody pending resolution in the context that matters of a similar nature are taking three years to start?" 

The magistrate said he did not appreciate the language used by the prosecution when Forde asked the court to do its "upmost best to remand her". 

He called it "emotive language" and "not language of a minister of justice". 

"Why should a court do it's upmost best to remand somebody?," the magistrate questioned. 

He said he would not consider the charge because it was in a warrant of arrest folder for a long time and was an administrative failure, as Harris should have been arrested "ever since". 

The Magistrate, however, told Harris that there was no indication that the matter had been dismissed and it was "still a live matter". 

After considering Pilgrim's objection regarding the length of time between the last conviction, he granted Harris bail. 

Pilgrim rose to his feet one last time to speak on the prosecution's decision to object to bail and the emotive language used by Forde. 

"The right things must be seen to be done, you can't just come here objecting...because you feel you know something about her past.

"This is a court, it is not a joke, not a place where you come and beg people -'knowing you I expect you to do this'...that's for the dark ages, that is things we should try to forget and put behind a court where people expect their rights to be proved...this is a court of law where you must be given the appropriate respect for the office you hold." 

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