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Most St. Lucians in favour of decriminalisation of marijuana-Opinion poll

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Oct 14, CMC – Most St. Lucians are either in support of the legalisation or partial decriminalisation of marijuana according to a poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).

CADRES said that it conducted the poll between September 8-11 and interviewed approximately 1,000 people across the island.

marijuuuIt said survey was conducted face to face and respondents were selected to conform to three distinct age cohorts (18-30; 31-50 and Over 50) and in each instance a 33 per cent quota was sought with equal quantities of males and females also being interviewed. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent.

CADRES said respondents were asked their “views on the decriminalization of Marijuana in St. Lucia” and provided with three response options as well at the option not to respond.

According to CADRES, which also conducted similar polls in several Caribbean islands including Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the results of the surveys tell an important story that is likely to be applicable across the region which is that public opinion is generally moving in the direction of greater support for decriminalisation and an increasing opposition to the status quo.

It said in the specific case of St. Lucia an estimated 38 per cent of those questioned opted for the maintenance of the status quo (illegal), while cumulatively 51 per cent of respondents supported either the full legalisation or partial decriminalisation, “which essentially means that most St. Lucians are opposed to the maintenance of the status quo.

“It is interesting to note that the attitude of St. Lucians on this issue is similar to that of all other Caribbean countries surveyed, especially as the margin of error associated with these surveys is plus or minus five per cent.

“St. Lucia therefore shares the same attitude towards full legalisation with St. Vincent, while Barbados, Dominica and Antigua all have a slightly larger quantity of persons who are supportive of full legalisation. Similarly, the 38 per cent of St. Lucians that opted for the status quo is consistent with the level of opposition to decriminalisation in St. Vincent Dominica and Barbados.”

But CADRES noted that the critical statistic; however, is support for partial decriminalisation, which is the route that is being pursued in Antigua and has already been taken in Jamaica, and in this regard “all islands surveyed report a similar level of support .

“Although this summary report does not permit a full exploration of the demographic factors impacting on support for or opposition to marijuana decriminalisation, the case of St. Lucia does provide a unique deviation from the region-wide custom that has noted higher levels of opposition to decriminalisation among women.

“In the case of St. Luca; however, similar quantities of women and men support the status quo which leads to the conclusion that gender does not impact on support for, or opposition to marijuana decriminalisation here, while the same cannot be said for age.

“In that regard St. Lucia is very much like all other countries surveyed in that older persons are more inclined to support the status quo, while younger persons are more disposed to decriminalisation or full legalisation,” CADRES added.

It said in the coming months it intends to be able to explore these attitudes in other Caribbean territories.

Caribbean government have already indicated a willingness to decriminalise the use of small portions of marijuana for medicinal purposes but have so far taken a cautious approach to the matter.

Posted in Crime, Health, Legal, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

court rul

ONDCP welcomes Court of Appeal ruling

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Sept 13, CMC – The Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Antigua and Barbuda’s civil forfeiture regime, which provides for the forfeiting of the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime without the need for a criminal conviction.

The appeal had been brought by Ahmed Williams after a forfeiture order was made by Justice Clare Henry against his two parcels of real property.

Williams had previously been convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to sell. During his trial, Williams had maintained that his assets were not obtained through money laundering activity, but the Court ruled to the civil standard, that he had engaged in money laundering activity and that the property was on the balance of probabilities the proceeds of crime.

court rulIn his appeal, Williams represented by attorney Dr. David Dorsett, argued that forfeiture under Section 20A(2) of the MLPA amounted to a finding of criminal guilt in civil proceedings in which he had not been criminally charged.  He also argued that civil forfeiture constituted inhumane treatment.

But in its decision delivered by Justice Louise Blenman, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Williams challenging the constitutionality of the forfeiture.

ONDCP director Lieutenant Colonel Edward Croft said he was pleased with the recent decision saying it reinforces the precedent previously established that the AML/CFT Civil Forfeiture Regime in Antigua and Barbuda is on a solid foundation.

In the newsletter titled DISCLOSURE, by Nicola Suter, the Financial Crimes Advisor, US International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section stated, “This judgment is specifically relevant to Antigua and Barbuda however the issues addressed will be relevant to civil recovery cases across the Eastern Caribbean.”

In a statement, the ONDCP said that the Court, upholding the argument by Justin Simon, QC on behalf of the Supervisory Authority/ONDCP, held that civil forfeiture is separate and distinct from criminal confiscation, the latter requiring a conviction in a criminal court.

“Under the civil forfeiture regime, there is no criminal charge, property may be forfeited if the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a defendant’s property was obtained from money laundering activity. The Court of Appeal held that civil asset recovery is civil in nature.

“It does not therefore infringe protections under sections 15(2)(a) of the Constitution concerning the presumption of innocence and 15(5) of the Constitution concerning double jeopardy,” the ONDCP statement noted.

It noted that on the argument that civil forfeiture constituted inhumane treatment, the Court said that it had been long established that the protections under section 7(1) of the Constitution from inhuman treatment  was a fundamental protection concerned with a person’s protection from bodily impairment and therefore was not related to property rights.

“The Court held that the civil forfeiture regime provides extensive due process guarantees which Mr. Williams took full advantage of. He had a full trial and was given the opportunity to oppose the property freezing order, lead evidence and cross examine witnesses. He was granted the full due process of the law,” the ONDCP statement added.

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TRINIDAD-CRIME-Former attorney general formally charged

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 30, CMC – Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan was on Wednesday formally charged with misbehaviour in public office more than 30 hours after he was picked up at his southern home by police.

Anand Ramlogan

A statement issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) stated that Ramlogan, who served as attorney general here from 2010-15, was charged “with misbehaviour in public office and obstruction of justice arising from allegations contained in a report made by Mr. David west to the Commissioner of Police on January 28, 2015”.

The statement said that the charges were laid against Ramlogan, 45, following consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and that he will appear in court on Friday September 1, “to answer the charges”. He was released on TT$750,00 (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) bail.

Earlier, one of Ramlogan’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Pamela Elder, told reporters that she was disappointed at the lengthy period it had taken to lay charges against him and that ““it is becoming oppressive now because he has been in continuous detention since 6o’clock yesterday and he has been cooperating fully with the police officers”.

The police picked up Ramlogan at his residence in Palmiste, south of here, early Tuesday morning as they continue their probe into allegations that he had sought to pervert the course of justice by asking West, the director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to withdraw a statement he had made in support of the then Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley in a lawsuit more than two years ago.

In 2015, then Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar fired Ramlogan and her national security minister Gary Griffith over the allegations.

The lawsuit followed statement allegedly made by Rowley during a news conference relating to the failed extradition involving businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh, who are reported to be financiers of the United National Congress, and are wanted to the United States on corruption charges.

Ramlogan has denied that he asked David West to withdraw his witness statement in support of Rowley six days before the PCA director took up his new post.

Persad Bissessar said that Griffith had failed to inform her that he had been allegedly asked by Ramlogan to telephone West asking him to withdraw the statement.

Meanwhile, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Wednesday urged members of the public to refrain from making comments on the detention of Ramlogan. As it chided two politicians for expressing an opinion on the matter.

In a statement, the LATT sought to remind the public of the importance of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Ren Biao

Chinese national to challenge government’s decision to withdraw passport

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 2, CMC – An attorney for a Chinese fugitive who returned to Beijing last month to face charges of fraud involving at least US$100 million, says will seek a judicial review of the decision of the St. Kitts-Nevis government not to re-issue him with a local passport.

Attorney Chesley Hamilton, speaking on WINN FM radio here said that the judicial review is aimed at addressing the matter of the government not having extended his client, Ren Biao, rights and privileges to continue to use the St Kitts and Nevis passport which he had acquired under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).

Ren Biao
Ren Biao (File Photo)

“The cabinet has made a decision not to re-issue him his passport at the moment and I have instructions to deal with that matter in terms of a judicial review,” he told radio listeners.

Ren Biao is accused by the Chinese authorities of swindling US$100 million from a Chinese state company and Beijing had called on the Timothy Harris government to have him extradited to face the charges.

He was detained here for three days by police while the discussion for his extradition continued and Hamilton says Ren Biao was very upset by the treatment he received.

“Yes he is very upset in terms of the fact that he was arrested here for three days for no apparent reason and the façade that there was some ongoing investigation about protection money and he is very upset over the treatment that he has gotten from the Harris administration and he continues to be upset that as a citizen they have failed to issue him his passport and offer him the rights and privileges of a St Kitts Nevis citizen.”

But Prime Minister Harris told WINN FM that he has received no complaint from Ren Biao or his attorney in that regard, saying “that is a matter for law enforcement and the law enforcement I am sure has no particular axe to grind, and gone about their activities and their investigation in a very professional matter.”

He said the details of any interaction involving the Chinese national and the police “are not matters I can communicate upon and indeed, I have never received a complaint regarding the treatment by law enforcement officers with respect to him.

“From all accounts the exercises undertaken by the police were very professionally done, they facilitated him to meet with his lawyers and have all queries basically answered. To my knowledge, no complaint has ever been made by anyone in relation to those interactions and so it is unfortunate at this late hour that such complaints would be uttered” Harris told radio listeners.

Ren Biao had hoped to travel to China with his St Kitts and Nevis passport, but had to settle instead for a temporary Chinese document.

“The matter of his passport is one which is under part of the investigation that is being conducted by the police, has to do with those passports and therefore the Commissioner of Police was of the view that at this particular moment in time having regard to the active investigation, that it would not be prudent for the passport be made available at this particular moment in time. We are happy that he has had recourse to other instruments that has facilitated his travel,” Prime Minister Harris said.

He told listeners that the matter is part of an active investigation.

“The police is leading with respect to this particular investigation, the Commissioner of Police is the man who basically has taken seize of this matter and he provides relevant guidance to the Ministry of National Security and to me as the Prime Minister on this matter.

“We let the professionals do their work, we take note of their advice and react in accordance with the best interest of the country” Harris added.

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CCJ orders release of men on death row in Barbados

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul. 25, CMC – The Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on Tuesday quashed the convictions of the two men  – Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes  – who sentenced to death for  murder  committed in Barbados in 2006.

The men  were set free on Tuesday, after being imprisoned since 2007.

CCJThey were charged for the murder of Damien Alleyne on July 21, 2007, almost a year after Alleyne’s death on August 11, 2006.

The court records stated that Alleyne was discovered by his girlfriend not far from her residence on the night of August 11, 2006.

She told the police that she heard explosions, which sounded like gunshots and later found him lying on the road. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Following their arrest Edwards and Haynes were  convicted of murder and sentenced the death.

On August 19, 2015, the appellants sought leave to appeal to the CCJ.

The regional court in handing down its ruling,  held that the convictions could not be upheld as the sole evidence presented by the  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was “not sufficient to ground a conviction having regard to the provisions and the general spirit of the Evidence Act”.

In a statement, the CCJ said the only evidence linking the appellants to the murder was their alleged oral confessions made to police officers in separate interviews with the officers while at a police station July 19, 2007 –  almost a year after Alleyne’s murder.

“Mr. Andrew Pilgrim, QC argued that there was no case to answer as this sole evidence was unreliable and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.”

The CCJ considered whether a defendant may be convicted in circumstances where the only evidence against him is a disputed and uncorroborated oral confession allegedly made to investigating police officers whilst the accused was in police custody.

The judgment of the Court was delivered by the Justice Anderson, with a concurring judgment by  Justice Saunders.

“The Court acknowledged that, prior to the Evidence Act, there was case law that supported the position that a man could be convicted of an offence where the sole evidence against him was an alleged oral confession provided that the jury was warned that such a conviction may be unsafe.

The CCJ, however, highlighted that the purpose of the Evidence Act which was passed by the Parliament of Barbados in 1994 was “to reform the law relating to evidence in proceedings in courts…” and to apply “standards that are more stringent than the common law, [compel] the judiciary to be guided by fresh approaches and [require] the executive to make available to the police new technologies.”

The Court stressed that the evidence against the accused men had to meet the appropriate standards outlined in the well-known decision of  R v Galbraith.

This meant that the evidence had to be reliable, especially in these proceedings where the punishment for murder in Barbados was death.

The CCJ stated that based on the spirit of the Evidence Act “alleged confessions made while in police custody could only meet this standard where it was supported by sound or video recordings of or by some other independent evidence linking the accused to the offence.”

The CCJ said that in this case, there was no other evidence and as such the judge should have dismissed the case against the appellants.

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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Prime Minister to sue member of Election Commission

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jul. 12, CMC – Lawyers for  Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica  say they will be filing a lawsuit against a member of the Election Commission for statements made on a radio programme that they determined to be defamatory .

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

The lawyers had written to Hillary Shillingford demanding a “prompt reaction and an apology  in terms to be agreed by him and his attorneys”.

The lawyers gave Shillingford a deadline of  July 5 at 12:00pm and also demanded payment of compensation and costs.

It was also noted that if Shillingford failed to meet the demands, a lawsuit would be filed.

The lawyers also demanded a retraction and apology from the management of the radio station Q95fm .

The radio station was given the deadline of July 7.

The legal team said if this was not done, legal proceedings will also be instituted against them.

According to the head of the Skerrit’s team of lawyers, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, during a radio programme June 27, Shillingford made statements that implied that the Prime Minister abused his office.

“The words meant and were understood by the listeners of Q95 Radio on live radio and via the internet to mean that our client misused and abused the office and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and unlawfully in breach of his duties, diverted and used public moneys and in particular moneys intended for use at the Princess Margaret Hospital, for the illegal and unlawful purpose of paying for the transportation of supporters in the Diaspora to travel to Dominica to vote.”

Hillary Shillingford
Hillary Shillingford

These allegations are not only completely false , disc hones and lies manufactured by you, but are premised on a factual impossibility,” the lawyers said in a letter to Shillingford.

In an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Astaphan said the Prime Minister has now decided on “zero-tolerance”.

“The Prime Minister of  the Commonwealth of Dominica has decided that after many years of tolerance and patience and non-stop smear campaign against him by the leader of the United Workers Party and his supporters and members that he appoints through various commissions  – he has decided on zero tolerance on matters such as this.”

Astaphan said the Prime Minister had no alternative to instruct his legal team to write Shillingford and a case will be filed in a matter of days

“This foolishness must stop – this prostitution of the freedom of the media, freedom of press and freedom of speech that you can use it as a platform to manufacture lies ad spread fake news and false news repeatedly has to stop. – somebody has to take action , and we are moving forward,” Astaphan said.

Posted in Court, Legal, Local, News, Politics, Regional1 Comment

court rul

High Court dismisses petition filed by well-known government supporters

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 29, CMC – The High Court has described as “an abuse of the process of the court” an attempt by two supporters of the government to remove two Nigerian students and all Commonwealth citizens from the Register of Voters.

Rupert Earle and William Liburd had by a claim form filed on January 13, 2014, petitioned the High Court seeking a declaration that the two Nigerian students – Oluwabunmi Jesufemi Ayorinde and Osanoto Akolade Samuel – who were studying medicine here were not qualified voters in the general election.

court rulThey also claimed that a person entering the twin island Federation as a student under the Immigration Act is not a person qualified to be registered as a voter; is not a resident under the Immigration Act and that a Commonwealth citizen entering St. Kitts and Nevis is not ordinarily resident here so as to be registered as a voter under the National Elections Act.

The two well-known government supporters, who were represented by attorney Jonel Powell, who contested the 2013 general election, also sought a declaration that a person entering St. Kitts and Nevis under a specific section in the Second Schedule of the Immigration Act is disqualified from being registered as a voter for the purpose of electing representatives.

Earle and Liburd also sought a declaration that persons entering St. Kitts and Nevis as students under the Immigration Act, in the Register of Voters is contrary to law and thus null and void and of no effect and sought an Order of Mandamus to remove the two Nigerian students and all other persons entered on the Voters Register.

But in her judgement handed down last week, Justice Marlene Carter noted that “the National Elections Act has been the subject of much discussion and discourse, much of which has led to the Court having to make determinations on various aspects of that most important piece of legislation.”

She said that that Earle and Liburd through their attorney have pointed to no instance in which the registration process has been curtailed or interrupted by the court in a manner that they now seek to have the court do now.

“The effect of a declaration being granted would be to effectively usurp the decision of the Registration Officer and to circumvent the procedure as laid down by the provisions of the National Assembly Elections Act and the Election Registration Regulations.

“If the Court is to intervene in an action before the Registration Officer/Supervisor of Elections is afforded an opportunity to make a determination, this would seriously undermine the entire election scheme and process. The acts and rights that the Act and Regulations seek to regulate are sacrosanct in a democratic society. This principle has been stated again and again by these courts,” said Justice Carter.

She noted that Earle and Liburd made clear in their submissions that the matter is neither a judicial review nor a constitutional relief claim.

 “The respondents seek by way of declaration to circumvent the clear provisions of the Act. Given the very nature of the matters with which this Act is concerned and the nature of the right that it seeks to protect, this Court is unable to agree with the submissions of the respondents that it can intervene in a manner that is sought on the claim,”

The judge said that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the registration process in the manner sought by Earl and Liburd and referred to a ruling of Justice Ian Mitchell in the case Mark Brantley vs Joseph Parry in which Mitchell emphasized the importance of the notice provision with regard to objections of persons’ names on the Register of Voters and its vital function in the projection of the right to vote.

“This Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the claim as filed…the claim form is struck as being an abuse of process of the Court. This Court makes no order as to costs,” Justice Carter ruled.

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Privy council dismisses case of murder convict

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 17, CMC – The UK based Privy Council has dismissed an appeal from a man who was convicted of the 2007 murder of his estranged wife.

Earlier this year Warrington Phillip approached the privy council after he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Shermell Williams Phillip.

COURTPhillip was convicted of the brutal stabbing death of his estranged wife in a Nevis court in 2008 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Phillip had previously made two  appeals to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Appeal Court, both of which were dismissed.

His application to the Privy Council was his last resort to appeal his conviction.

Both Director of Public Prosecutions for St. Kitts and Nevis Valston Graham and Prosecutor Dane Hamilton QC , represented the Crown in the UK.

The case was heard in London in January but the judgment was handed down Wednesday with the conclusion being –  “For all the foregoing reasons, the Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed.”

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Andre West arrested on charges of allegations of deception on the job

Fire Chief Andre West

In June last year authoritative sources were unwilling to disclose or confirm the reasons why Mr. Andre West of Barzey’s had been relieved of his duties as Fire Chief at the Royal Montserrat Police and Fire Services where he was also in charge of Search and Rescue Services.

Up to April last, with West not yet having returned to his duties, still, no one wanted to be quoted but confirmed that investigations were ongoing into allegations of activities conducted by West surrounding his duties. Eventually just under two weeks ago TMR learnt of charges and arrest being made in the matter, not published since for two weeks adequate resources have prevented the publication of the newspaper.

Now amidst questions of procedural correctness, the police on Tuesday, May 9 confirm magistrate court hearings that Andre West appeared before Chief Magistrate Lakmal Wickramasooriya, on several charges for allegedly using his position to illegally obtain services, to include obtaining services by deception and two counts of Evasion of liability by deception. West plead not guilty, and as such the matter is adjourned to September 4, 2017.”

According to one report, under the penal code of Montserrat a person who by any deception dishonestly obtains property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for ten years. A ZJB report had stated part of the offences is regarding Customs duty and shipping cost on items coming from the United Kingdom.

 Sources has said that West has opted to have his charges heard summarily in the Magistrate’s Court.

Fire Chief Andre West. The investigation into the suspected wrong doing began in June 2015 and resulted in West being charged with several offences in the Magistrates Court last Tuesday. Among the offences was obtaining services by deception and two counts of evasion of liability by deception. ZJB News understands that the offence of evasion of liability by deception is regarding Customs duty and shipping cost on items coming from the United Kingdom. West will appear before the court again in September, was appointed Chief of the Montserrat Fire & Rescue Service in 2014 he was reportedly sent on leave last year to allow for a full investigation into the allegations.

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illegal employment

St. Lucia clamping down on illegal workers

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 21, CMC – The St. Lucia government Tuesday said it had embarked on a drive to clamp down on foreign nationals working here illegally.

“It has been brought to the attention of the Labour Department, that there are individuals employed at various organizations here without a valid work permit. The country`s Labour legislation mandates that overseas nationals desirous of employment in St. Lucia, must first obtain a work permit or exemption where applicable,” the Ministry of Labour said in a statement.

illegal employmentIt warned local employers of employing foreigners who do not have the necessary documents to work here and quoted Labour Minister Stephenson King as saying that “this notification serves as a warning to employers and employees engaged in illegal employment.

“The laws of St. Lucia are clear when it comes to employment, we want people to adhere to the laws or face the penalties” said King.

The Minister of Labour said that the ongoing drive is targeted at people who do not have the necessary documentation and that employers and or employees who are currently in contravention of the law are asked to visit the Labour Department to regularize their employment status urgently.
“Failure to comply will result in the case being passes on to the Immigration Department for full enforcement of the law.

“Employers and employees should note that a foreign national who engages in occupation in St. Lucia or is employed in St. Lucia in contravention of the law is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$5,000 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.

“Should the offence continue, the convicted is liable to a further fine not exceeding EC$500 for each day the offence continues and or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

King said the government will do what is necessary to ensure that Labour laws are upheld.

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The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017