A funeral director has been found guilty of knowingly breeding mosquitoes on his property last October 8.
Michael St Hill was fined $500 payable in two months with the alternative of a month in jail. The maximum fine under law is $5 000.
In rendering his decision in the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court today, acting Magistrate Alliston Seale noted that although St Hill might not have been knowingly breeding the insects, the matter was one of “strict liability”.
As environmental health officer Malcolm Stoute had found a number of containers, which held stagnant water when he visited the property, it made St Hill liable as the owner.
Seale added that the Health Services Regulations did not require that one had to be “knowingly” breeding the mosquitoes in order to be charged, but charges could arise from creating an environment in which they could breed.
Last November, Funeral Director Michael St Hill pleaded not guilty before the District ‘A’ Magistrate Court after the Ministry of Health brought a case against him.
He later testified that last October 8, while on his way to work, his wife called to tell him that an environmental officer was at the premises.
According to St. Hill, Stoute said he had found stagnant water around the premises which he wanted sprayed. St. Hill said he told his wife to let Stoute know that he was on his way to a funeral and would take care of the situation the following day. However, his general worker was not at work the following day but when he came to work the next, it was done.
The witness recalled that Stoute returned on October 12, inspected the property and said everything was “all right”.
A second accused, who appeared in court on the same day as St. Hill, pleaded guilty on the second occasion.
Margaret Manning was reprimanded and discharged after stating that she had taken care of the situation at her Perseverance Drive, Canewood Road, Jackson, St Michael residence.
Addressing the court today after the verdict, attorney-at-law Errol Niles submitted that there had been no actual evidence of the presence of mosquitoes but of larvae, which forms in about two days.
He asked the court to be lenient and not to record a conviction against his client.
The magistrate, however, was not minded to do so since St. Hill had denied the charge and they had gone through an entire trial. Even though it was the accused man’s right to do so, after being found guilty, he could not now expect to get the same benefits as someone who pleaded guilty early.
Niles then respectfully asked the court not to “prejudice the accused for testing the evidence”.
Seale assured him he was not doing so, nor was he punishing St. Hill, but was in fact exercising his discretion and his personal policy.
Similar was done “in the highest courts”, he reminded Niles, where a guilty plea was always considered a strong mitigating factor.
Seale also pointed to the seriousness of the charge, which he said might be taken lightly by some but was in fact a “national health issue”.
Principal Environmental Officer Ronald Chapman and Environmental Officer Malcolm Stoute were present at court on every occasion.