More than a dozen prisoners on remand for murder, theft, drugs, gun and ammunition declared their intentions as the status hearings got underway before Justice Randall Worrell in the No. 2 Supreme Court this morning.
There are reportedly 57 people on remand to appear before Justice Worrell this week alone.
The status hearings are being held to clear a backlog of accused persons on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds following the appearance of a prisoner who was forgotten and left to languish in jail for a decade.
Seventeen men, two of them from St Lucia, appeared before the High Court judge today in the first of a series of status hearings.
Today’s sitting comes just a week after Justice Worrell suspended sittings in his court and cleared his calendar for the week to get the status on accused persons on remand and their intentions with regards to their offences.
The judge took the decision following recent guilty pleas from 52-year-old Joel Mckenzie McDonald Springer, of Hope Road and Northumberland, St Lucy and 50-year-old Winston Adolphus Agard, of 3rd Avenue, Licorish Village, St Michael.
Springer said he had not been before a High Court since 2016 and that there were 17 other inmates in his building who were also desirous of pleading guilty.
Agard, who the court heard had “fallen through the cracks”, appeared before a judge two weeks ago for the first time in seven years, after being on remand for close to a decade on a theft charge.
Among those who stepped off a prison bus today and into the Whitepark Road, St Michael Supreme Court complex was Jamel Ashby, 28, of 4th Avenue Skeetes Road, Ivy, St Michael.
He told the judge he had been on remand for nearly five years and wished to plead guilty to a firearm charge.
But his case has not been indicted and prosecutors told the judge they are hoping to rectify that by Thursday.
David O’brien Best of Thornbury Hill, Christ Church is currently serving a five-year sentence but told the judge he intends to plead guilty to a burglary charge. He however has to return on July 10 for another status hearing as the filed pertaining to him has to be “sourced”.
When it was Jeffery William Chandler’s turn in the dock, the 56-year-old of Block E, The Ivy, St Michael told the judge he had been on the remand block at Dodds for the past 32 months.
“All I want to do is to plead guilty,” the accused man, who returns to the No. 2 Supreme Court on July 10, and is charged for possession of a firearm and six rounds of ammunition declared.
Vauxhall, Christ Church resident Renaldo Carter who lives at 1st Avenue has an attorney in charge of his case but put his name on the list.
But when he appeared before the judge, attorney-at-law Angella Mitchell-Gittens, who is standing in as a friend of the court for those who are unrepresented, said Carter was “not sure what his position is.” His matter was therefore adjourned so his attorney could appear before the court and address his situation.
Four-murder accused also put their names on the status hearings list and appeared before Justice Worrell this morning. Among them, 44-year-old Kendrick Davis, of Dodds Land, Church Village, St Philip who is charged with murder but wants to plead guilty to manslaughter and has been on remand since 2017 awaiting his day in court.
Akil Grant, 33, of No. 2 Blades Hill, St Philip, who is facing a charge of the unlawful disposal of a body and has been on remand
for the past three years, also stated his intentions.
“I would like to plead guilty,” he said. But it was quickly realised that while his matter had been committed there was no indictment on his case. He will return on July 10.
Some of the men at today’s hearings have not been in the system for years but said they were ready to have their cases dealt with.
One such accused was Michael Anthony Brathwaite, 47, of Reed Street, St Michael. He was remanded in March for possession of two rounds of ammunition but insisted: “I ready to plead guilty. I am not wasting anytime.”
He was given a July date since his matter has not been committed but he was not satisfied that Worrell had understood his position.
“I want you to understand I pleading guilty, Sir,” he again stated to which the judge answered: “You have made that pellucidly clear, Mr Brathwaite”.
Taking his leave, two men from the south of St Lucia also said they wished to enter guilty pleas to charges of possession, importation and trafficking of 238. 3 kilogrammes of cannabis. The two – Tyron Belhomme, 30, and Jack George, 39, both from Vieux Fort, have been on remand at Dodds for the past ten months.
After getting adjournment dates to either return to enter their pleas or a further hearing to find out the status of their indictments, the men excited the docks to make way for another 20 fellow prisoners who are expected to appear for the status hearings tomorrow.
Senior Crown Counsel Olivia Davis and Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas were the prosecutors at today’s sitting.