Process leading to jailing of policeman by magistrate appeared to be flawed

Dear Editor,

Recent information in the print and electronic media revealed that Magistrate Rondel Weaver at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court sentenced police inspector Prem Narine  to seven days in prison. During the course of the same day his attorneys at law petitioned the Acting Chief Justice Roxane George who ordered the policeman’s immediate release.

I am not au fait with all the facts in issue or facts relevant to the facts in issue in relation to this case. However, it is apparent that there was some exchange of words and other issues in open Court between the police inspector and the magistrate, who in her own judgement deemed the conduct of the policeman as contemptuous. No charge was read to the policeman.  According to him the Magistrate told him that he was in Contempt of Court and sentenced him to seven days in prison –  all in one breath.

The process leading up to the jailing of the policeman appeared to be flawed. It was not in keeping with natural justice and standard operating court procedures. The principle of the right to be heard was dashed out of the Court’s window. The inspector was not given the opportunity to defend himself or to have an attorney to plead his case. Prisoners are entitled to this right, more so, policemen. He was cited for some alleged contemptuous act and immediately sentenced to seven days in prison. Luckily, during the day in question his attorneys at law were given a hearing by the Acting Chief Justice who ordered the release of the inspector before the rising of the Court saying that the time served was enough. I am not certain what was the exact offence the law enforcement officer committed. Not certain if a charge of Contempt of Court lies within the ambit of the Magistrate’s Court. Certainly, it is within the remit of the High Court.

Flashback! A few decades ago, Justice Keith Massiah in the High Court cited a prominent attorney at law for Contempt of Court. It was during the morning session of the court proceedings. He ordered the Court Orderly to arrest the attorney at law and keep him there until 1.00 pm that day. Unlike Magistrate  Rondel Weaver, Justice Massiah instructed the attorney at law to appear before him at the appointed time with his defence team and address him, “or the jaws of the Georgetown Prison will open up and swallow him. “

As instructed, the accused appeared before the Justice with a battery of attorneys  at law including some seniors counsel. The defence was adequately put to the Justice who warned the accused. End of the case.

The right to be heard is a God-given right. It is not only pertinent for legal matters but in resolving conflicts in our daily lives and living. It started in Genesis, when Adam and Eve committed themselves.  Although God knew exactly what took place, he did not pass judgement on them immediately. Instead, he called them and inquired what happened before imposing judgement. That is how it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. No one must be allowed to take away that right from us.

I hasten to commend the members of the  defence team of Inspector Prem Narine for their prompt and intelligent action in successfully petitioning the Acting  Chief Justice on behalf of their client and to salute her for not only giving them a hearing, but taking swift, certain and appropriate action which abbreviated  a case of miscarriage of justice.  I hope that inspector Prem Narine will take legal action to expunge from the records the conviction imposed on him.

Yours faithfully,

Clinton Conway

Assistant Commissioner of Police

(Retired)

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