Man brought before Magistrates’ Court for alleged breach of High Court Bail condition
An allegation that Dash Valley, St George resident Andrew St Mark breached a bail condition imposed by the High Court saw him being hauled before the Magistrates’ Court today. However, his attorneys mounted a strong challenge stating that the matter had been brought before “a court of incompetent jurisdiction”.
St Mark is before the High Court on violent disorder and firearm charges and is currently on $100,000 bail.
When the accused was called to the dock today prosecutor Sergeant Kevin Forde informed acting Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes that a station sergeant was present in court to speak about the breach of bail. However, St Mark’s attorneys-at-law Arthur Holder and Shadia Simpson were quick to object.
Holder called on the prosecutor to cite “a specific section” in the Bail Act that gave him the “lawful, legal authority” to bring his client before the magistrates’ court.
“This matter was not before the magistrates’ court . . . . So to just pick up someone who there is an allegation of a breach, not that there is a breach . . . and they just bring him without even an opportunity to respond. I don’t know if there is an affidavit filed somewhere. So I want my friend to guide me as to the procedure that would have given the police lawful authority to take up my client, put him in custody, and place him before a court that was not competent in the first instance to grant him bail,” Arthur said.
He went on to state, “If there is therefore any breach of my client’s fundamental rights they will have to answer a civil action with respect to taking up somebody just so.”
Acting Chief Magistrate Weekes reminded the defence that any individual who is on bail could be questioned by a police officer if that officer were to have information, which might suggest that, that person, was on specific conditions. He said what the law requires is for the officer to have a conversation with the individual to make the necessary inquires.
“The law still allows for that individual to be taken by the police as soon as is practicable to the court…The interpretation of the Bail Act is that it ought to be the court meaning the higher court,” Weekes explained.
Holder however, argued that given the nature of the allegation against his client only the High Court could grant him bail as he is charged under the Firearms Act.
“There was no jurisdiction in the magistrates’ court and conditions were so imposed . . . by a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
Holder further argued that in the High Court. He said there was a procedure that had to be satisfied even to bring the matter before that court . . . they had to file affidavits and had to serve them on the defence and there was a right to reply.
“So that they just can’t make naked arguments. You can’t just come in the dock and present piece of paper and say this is it. And the court has to be satisfied that those conditions were actually breached and if there was a rationale.
Prosecutor Forde responded and based his arguments of the alleged breach of bail conditions under section 18 (1) and 18 (3) of the Bail Act.
“The prosecution is prepared to lead evidence to show where the breach occurred. Homage must be given to the Bail Act under these circumstances because we . . . see that it calls for some level of interpretation,” he stated.
However, before remanding St Mark overnight to appear before the a High Court judge tomorrow on the matter the acting Chief Magistrate stated that he was concerned about recent occurrences since the whole issue of breach of bail came up recently.
‘In my view, I totally disagree with what is being done now . . . what is it called? Curfew police checking in the neighbourhood and check if Rico home? I don’t think we have enough manpower with the police to be doing that and I think my interpretation of the law is that if you were out on patrol and may know someone with conditions from the court, that is when the issue arises. But the idea of going through a neigbourhood now [and checking] I really think that is way too taxing on the police and I do not think that’s what was meant in terms of what the Act is trying to say.
“I don’t think we would ever have manpower to do that. I think that it is extremely onerous on the police,” he stated before giving the defence the August 30 date for the High Court.