An allegation that prison officer Cathy-Ann Elizabeth Blunte smuggled contraband into the island’s lone penitentiary landed her before the law courts today.
And while there was no objection to bail from Sergeant St Clair Phillips when the accused appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes, her lead attorney Michael Lashley, QC, made it known he was not happy that she had spent the night in police custody.
Blunte, 46, of Skeetes Road, Jackmans, St Michael, is accused of taking, without lawful authority, prohibited articles, namely five bottles of tattoo ink, into Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds on August 22.
She pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted $2,500 bail to make her next appearance on September 17 in the District ‘C’ Magistrates’ Court, where the case has been transferred.
However, in making an application to receive pre-trial documents at the earliest possible time, Lashley, who represented Blunte along with attorneys Dayna Taylor-Lavine and Kadisha Wickham, said he was concerned that police had refused to grant her station bail after she was charged.
“I am not saying that you should show preference, but I believe that the police officers at District ‘C’ – given the fact that [she has] 14 years on the job as a prison officer, [is] no flight risk, [was] under tremendous difficulty in the station – [that they] refused to give her station bail is totally wrong. It is wrong!” he contended.
The Queen’s Counsel stressed that his client would have simply appeared in the District ‘D’ Magistrates’ Court this morning on her own recognisance, given her clean record, if only officers had exercised their discretion.
“Yet she has to overnight in a police station, overnight in the cells at Central [Police Station]. She didn’t commit murder, she didn’t commit any offence that is indictable, and it is a summary offence. A woman that has given 14 years in the public service and a clean record . . . they are not even going to give her the opportunity [of] station bail, but she must be handcuffed and brought to you this morning. It’s wrong, Sir. There are certain exceptional circumstances like these that the police can say ‘we can take the risk with this person’,” the senior attorney said in the presence of the officers who had escorted his client to court.
Adamant that he would not be silenced on the issue, he added: “I am here to speak on behalf of my client, and I am here speaking in the name of justice. I don’t know that I should sit here quiet like a lamb. I am not a lamb! Somebody has to overnight for tattoo ink. Tattoo ink, Sir; allegedly having tattoo ink.”
The acting chief magistrate described the development as “curious”, adding that he had no background information on what had transpired.
“That is why I have to use the word curious, because the fact that we did not object to bail…leads one to wonder what happened last night in relation to what you are saying. But curious should speak for itself in terms of the whole process . . . .,” Weekes said.