The lower court on Friday witnessed a lengthy spirited verbal exchange between the island’s Chief Magistrate and a junior attorney over his power to grant bail in firearms and certain other serious offence matters.
Defence attorney Shadia Simpson was at the time applying for bail for her client Rasheed Prescod who is facing firearms and robbery charges alleged to have taken place on March 8, 2021 in St Michael.
Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes challenged Simpson as she sought to ground her submission on the May 18, 2021 ruling of High Court Judge Shona Griffith that Section 5(a) of the Bail (Amendment) Act 2019 was unconstitutional.
The young attorney told Chief Magistrate Weekes that that section along with the repealed provisions of 5(4) in the “old” Act, both of which prohibited magistrates from granting bail for murder, high treason, firearms and other indictable offences, no longer exist.
Simpson argued that while there is now no definitive provision saying that magistrates can grant bail, there is also nothing that says they can’t.
“There is nothing prohibiting you [from granting bail],” Simpson declared.
“I disagree,” Chief Magistrate Weekes countered.
He insisted that the power of magistrates had long been taken away to grant bail in cases of this kind.
“Magistrates cannot have any power to deal with these matters. They deliberately took away the power of magistrates. There is no way this change will get us back the power that was taken away,” the presiding judicial officer stated.
Weekes asked where would the power now come from, if it did not exist before.
He said there was a state of flux regarding the ruling on the Bail Act and suggested that attorneys-at-law should go to the High Court and get a declaration or determination on the matter.
“I may have to ask the Court of Appeal to assist me on it,” the Chief Magistrate said.
However, Simpson reiterated her earlier position that there was nothing prohibiting the magistrate from approving her bail application.
But Weekes stuck to his guns and denied the bail.
He said while he was willing to listen to any bail application, his mind was made up at this stage on this issue.
Simpson’s 31-year-old client of Pioneer Road, St Michael was then remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison, Dodds, St Philip for 28 days.
Prescod is charged with entering the home of Carlos Hood as a trespasser and stealing $2,000 in cash while having a gun. He also allegedly robbed Hood of a cellphone valued at $700.
He is also charged with robbing Ricardo Beckles of a cellphone worth $300 and a bag with the same price tag, along with an electronic key that cost $20.
The former employee of the state-run National Conservation Commission is also accused of criminal damage and robbing Theo Norville of $200 cash and using a firearm during flight after committing a robbery.