–Home Affairs Ministry lambastes courts
Two alleged Jamaican drug traffickers who failed to appear in court for their trial may have fled the country after being granted $150,000 bail in the High Court and the Home Affairs Ministry yesterday said that there was no special reason to justify their release.
In April last year, Gaston Samuel, Dwayne O’Neill Morris and Michelle McKenzie appeared in the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court following the discovery of a quantity of cocaine in a darts board at the airport.
McKenzie, who was four months’ pregnant at the time, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years imprisonment together with a fine of $860,400, while the men were remanded to prison.
The ministry said in a press release yesterday that the hallowed principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and the granting of pre-trial liberty have once again been violated by those who break the law “yet no one in the legal profession nor the bar association say anything when such incidents occur.
“So much for the effectiveness of the criminal justice system which has thwarted once again the efforts of the law enforcement agencies to crack down on narco-trafficking, the illegal arms traders as well as those involved in gun crimes.”
Section 93 of the Narcotics Act of 1988 says: “Any person arrested for an offence against Part 11 shall not, unless there are special reasons for so doing, which shall be recorded in writing, be admitted to bail, by any Court, but he shall be tried within a reasonable time.”
The ministry said yesterday that it was of the view that there was no justification for the court to release the duo on bail.
According to the release, Samuels and Morris were charged by CANU with trafficking in narcotics in April but were granted $150,000 bail in the High Court on September 19, last.
Prior to the granting of bail, the defendants had appeared in Court on July 22 last year, and an adjournment was granted until November 10 for them to secure counsel. The trial was later set for March 18, this year.
When the matter was called on the trial date, the release said, neither the defendants nor their counsel, who had secured bail for them, appeared in court. Instead a female purporting to be the bailor appeared and “informed the court that she could not say anything about the whereabouts of the defendants”.
It is however suspected that they had left the jurisdiction.
On April 25 last, the duo and the woman were intercepted at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (CJIA) with 956 grammes of cocaine which had a street value of US$20,000. All three are Jamaicans.
McKenzie of Negril Post Office, Westmoreland, Jamaica and Gaston Samuels of Johnson Town, Lucea, Handover, Jamaica were both charged with trafficking in narcotics. O’Neil an entertainer of Paradise Norway, Montego Bay, Jamaica was charged with aiding and abetting the trafficking in narcotics. He, according to the particulars of the charge, had handed over the drugs to McKenzie at an Alberttown address.
Attorney-at-law Euclin Gomes who had appeared for the trio at the first hearing told this newspaper yesterday that he had visited the men in prison on two occasions expecting to receive further instructions. However, he said, he was never retained and as such withdrew himself from the matter.
He said he was not the lawyer who made the High Court bail application on their behalf.