Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock this morning threw out a lifeline to the Vincentian owner of a fishing vessel which has been in legal custody here for more than a year, after it was intercepted in Barbadian waters with two men and over $1 million worth of narcotics onboard.
Barbados TODAY first reported on Tuesday that 42-year-old Lenford Jack, who on the morning of February 16, 2015 had reported to police in his homeland that his boat Genesis had been stolen, had made an impassioned plea to the Barbadian authorities to release his only means of providing for his family.
When contacted today, Leacock made it clear that the boat was liable to seizure because illicit drugs had been discovered on it. He explained that the process of recovery by the owner could be a lengthy one and that if the men were convicted, the police could seek forfeiture of the vessel, notwithstanding the fact it was Jack’s only means of livelihood.
Yet, he presented the Vincentian fisherman with an opening, telling Barbados TODAY if it could be proven through investigations by the Royal Barbados Police Force that the boat was indeed stolen, he would seriously consider returning it to Jack.
“If he has a really genuine case that his boat was really stolen . . . that his story is true . . . that his boat was genuinely stolen and used in the drug trade, he should probably write and set out that information he has to the Commissioner of Police and ask them to forward it to me for consideration as to whether the boat could be photographed and returned to him as an exhibit . . . that’s provided proper investigations are done and they show there was no culpability [on Jack’s part],” Leacock stated.
“If there is a genuine case of a stolen boat, we will seriously consider returning it. But he has to submit some kind of information to show the bona fide of his claim, and he shouldn’t do it through the press. He has to write the Commissioner of Police.”
The DPP’s assurance delighted Jack’s attorney in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Vynette Frederick, who told Barbados TODAY via telephone this afternoon that she was pleased that journalism still produced results.
Frederick said she had tried “all sorts” of routes, including the diplomatic one, and had even retained counsel here for a watching brief to put her client’s story to the magistrate and to the powers that be.
“I’m happy to know that I can communicate directly to the Commissioner of Police – to the DPP through the Commissioner of Police – to establish the fact that this gentleman is a legitimate fisherman who is really the victim of a crime and that his vessel was stolen and nothing more,” Frederick said.
The attorney said she appreciated the strident approach of the police to ensure that they stamp out every element of the drug trade, “but we also believe that the zeal is also for the innocent and the average man that is not involved in criminality”.
The Vincentian lawyer praised the DPP for his efforts at seeking to ensure justice was served by providing an opportunity for the fisherman of 25 years and father of four to prove that his vessel was stolen.
“I appreciate and I see this as the DPP and those in authority making that kind of overture to us . . . a man who is not known to the police, a man who has no record where the law is concerned, genuinely suffering where his vessel was legitimately stolen. He also has no clue who these accused are with regard to the charge of the controlled substance.
“The good guys must also feel the benefit of knowing that they too are protected. I will, with dispatch, do all I can to articulate to the best of my abilities to the authorities in Barbados, what I understand Mr Jack’s situation to be,” Frederick pointed out.
The two men who were arrested and charged in connection with the drug haul remain on remand at HMP Dodds. They were charged with possession, possession with intent to supply, trafficking and importation of cannabis. They were also charged with entering Barbados by sea other than at a legitimate port of entry without the permission of an immigration officer. Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith could not be reached for comment on the DPP’s response.