Social activist Mark Benschop was today found guilty of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest by Magistrate Sueanna Lovell at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
In a brief address to the court after reviewing the evidence presented by the prosecution, the magistrate informed that the elements of the offences had been made out against Benschop and she ordered him to pay fines totalling $24,000.
Benschop, who represented himself, was ordered to pay a fine of $12,000 for each offence, and failure to do so will result in imprisonment for one month for each charge. When given a chance to speak, Benschop said that though he respected the court’s ruling, he believed that he was doing “the right thing” at the time and did not see by what means he had broken the law. The magistrate then cautioned that though at times it seems “we are doing the right thing morally, it might be wrong in the eyes of the law.”
The charges stemmed from a June 10, 2010 protest led by Benschop and columnist Freddie Kissoon in front of the Ministry of Home Affairs, to condemn the killing of Kelvin Fraser, allegedly at the hands of police.
According to the charge against Benschop, he wilfully obstructed Inspector of Police Winston Watts, who was acting in the execution of his duty. On the same day at Brickdam also, he resisted arrest by Watts who was acting in the execution of his duty. Two police witnesses were called to the stand to testify.
Benschop told the court today that his actions on the day in question were sparked at a protest activity in which “a little boy was killed allegedly at the hands of a member of the Guyana Police Force.” He then sought the court’s permission to be reprimanded and discharged, instead of having to pay a fine.
Magistrate Lovell, however, explained to him that as a matter of legal principle she could not change her decision after handing down a ruling.
Benschop requested additional time to pay the fine and the court acquiesced.