In a surprise move, the Oistins Magistrates’ Court heard this morning that the hierarchy of the Royal Barbados Police Force had instructed its prosecutor not to object to bail in the case of two teenagers charged with causing a nuisance to the public by setting a grass fire at Chancery Lane, Christ Church, last Wednesday.
Seventeen-year-old Jed Anthony Taylor, of No. 9 Johnson Development, Foul Bay, St Philip, and 16-year-old Tyler Robert Coombes, of Point View, Worthing, Christ Church, are jointly –– and separately –– charged with the offence.
When Taylor and Coombes appeared before Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles for the first time to face the charges, they were not required to plead because the alleged offences are indictable.
But once the charges were read out to the young men, in the presence of their parents, and an adjournment date of July 10 was agreed, Chief Magistrate Beckles then put the question of bail to prosecuting Sergeant Rudolph Burnett to see what he had to say.
Promptly rising to his feet, Sergeant Burnett told the court that normally in cases of this nature where the charge was so serious, he would definitely have objected to any bail, but he could not do so on this occasion, because “my superior offered bail”.
He said he was particularly concerned about the accused men returning to the streets and reoffending. The senior magistrate agreed with the police prosecutor that the normal practice was to object, given the seriousness of such offences. However, she made it clear that even though the prosecutor could not object to bail, she had the last say in making a determination. At this point, the magistrate asked the attorneys-at-law for Taylor and Coombes to mitigate on behalf of their clients so she could determine how to rule.
In his brief submission, attorney for Taylor, Kevin Miller told the court that the young man was working [as a sales assistant]; that the act [setting fire] was a one-off situation and that he never committed a crime before.
The Chief Magistrate quickly interjected and told the lawyer: “You mean he has never been caught.”
She suggested that the counsel should instead say his client has no convictions, to which Miller conceded.
Deborah Carrington, attorney for Coombes, who is student, urged the court to consider that he had no prior convictions; that he had strong ties with his community; lived in a stable family environment and had no prior convictions.
The parents of the accused were also called forward to say anything that would assist the court in determining what to do about bail.
At first, the father of Taylor said he had nothing to say when Magistrate Beckles called on him to speak.
It was only after she informed him that his silence was not helping his son, nor the court, that Taylor’s dad echoed the sentiments of his lawyer.
However, the comments of Coombes’ mother and father were terse and it was the uncle –– who accompanied them –– that did most of the speaking.
He said measures had already been put in place to discipline the 16-year-old accused, including curbing some of his activities and the people with whom he associated and ensuring he attended church yesterday.
Asked if they had anything to say, the two accused replied “no”.
Wearing white long sleeve shirts and black pants and looking stoned-faced throughout, the teenagers heard the Chief Magistrate then impose $25,000 bail on each of them –– with one surety each.
Stating that the conditions being attached to the bail should make them wish they were remanded to prison instead, Magistrate Beckles ruled that Taylor and Coombes must be on curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., report to the nearest police station every Monday by 10 a.m., surrender their travel documents today and must attend church regularly.
The presiding court officer also suggested that the parents should insist that the two youngsters do all the necessary chores at home.
She advised the parents to return to the court if they encountered any problems with them carrying out such chores, so they could benefit from counselling at the expense of the state.
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