Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Magistrate: Deal with the issues at hand, not race, class

A Bridgetown Magistrate took the race card off the table today as the prosecution argued against bail while the accused men's lawyers argued in their favour for bail, even if with conditions.

This came as prominent lawyer Andrew Pilgrim Q.C. made his bail application in a case that has captured the nation's attention for the whole week. 

Arthur Charles Herbert 62, a Company Chairman, of Redland Plantation, St. George; Christopher Glenn Rogers, 56, a Company Director, of York Road, Navy Gardens, Christ Church and Walter Oneal Prescod, 55, a sailor, of Emerald Park East, St. Philip appeared in the District 'A' Magistrates' Court charged with possessing, supplying, trafficking and importing $534,160.00 in cannabis on July 23.

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Pilgrim represented Herbert and Rogers while Shadia Simpson, holding papers for Arthur Holder, represented Prescod.

As Pilgrim responded to the prosecution's objections to bail, certain comments were made about the topic that has dominated social media platforms. 

"Unless we, like some dejected, rejected politician are willing to conceptualize this matter as one that hinges on race or class or one's political orientation these objections have no meaning.

"I think we all are very much aware that people [are] charged with this quantity or more, and I'm not talking about the quantities mentioned on social media and the media; I'm not talking about $3.5 Million in cocaine as was reported... I'm talking about what is before this court - 267.4 pounds of marijuana."

He recalled the court granting bail for persons charged with having similar quantities; as recently as last month.

He said he believed the court was one that acted on law and principle and that the accused men should not be treated any different to others brought before the court on similar charges.

"We must treat these men the way we treat other men and the court is often reminded that justice must be done though the heavens fall down..."

Magistrate Douglas Frederick intervened at this point saying that race/colour was a non-issue and said it was not necessary to raise the topic. He asked that only those objections mentioned by the prosecution, be addressed.

Prosecutor Station Sergeant Samuel Hinds objected on three grounds. He said the offences alleged were very serious in nature and if found guilty the penalty was a very severe one.

In addition, the Crown representative said the accused had access to vessels and could readily flee the country. 

It was here that the magistrate questioned whether the vessel was confiscated by police.

To which Pilgrim said the vessel was in possession of police from July 23 and no arrangements were made to release it. Pilgrim reiterated that the objections held no weight, adding that his clients were Barbadian citizens, with family, business and property ties here on the island.

Simpson said the prosecution's objection regarding access to a vessel did not bear much relevance. Prescod, she said, is an employee of Goddard's Enterprises and the vessel had been seized. She added that if her client was deemed a flight risk the court could ask that he surrender his travel documents She said the objections had no weight compared to the things Prescod had in his favour.

Prescod, she said, was a family man with four children and has been currently supporting his wife who is battling cancer.

The prosecution then mentioned that Prescod was known to the court. His last conviction was in 2001 for a similar drug offence. Simpson called the matter vintage and asked the court to give consideration to the fact that it is over 17 years ago.

"We have been pushing the envelope and people have been getting bail on probably some very large amounts here at the Magistrate Court. There's always this intellectual or academic argument that an accusation is an accusation no matter how large the amount so that a man can be still innocent even though you accuse him of a large amount of drugs," the magistrate said.

He said the prosecution's objection regarding the access to vessels was not a reasonable objection as "anybody who is charged with a serious offence can leave the island whether they have a boat or not."

He said he would, however, allay the fears of the prosecution by taking away passports and having substantial bail amounts imposed.

Rogers and Herbert were granted $400 000 bail each while Prescod was granted $450 000. However, Prescod failed to obtain a surety by the end of the day and was remanded until Monday.

Rogers must report to Hastings every Wednesday by 10:00 a.m. and Herbert to District 'F' every Wednesday before 10:00 a.m. They were also asked to surrender their passports.

The matter was adjourned until November 6.

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