From the Courts
January 29, 2016
Trinidadian men did not deserve ‘ole thumps’ from police – Connell

Lawyer Grant Connell stood firm in disagreement on Wednesday, when he told the Serious Offences Court that his Trinidadian clients did not deserve the ‘ole thumps’ they got from police.

Connell argued that the men are “our Caribbean brothers” and that the beating was unjustified.{{more}}

“They have no right to beat them,” he argued.

Robin Beh-Harry (59), Shaheed Muhammed (53) and Nicholas Rose (20) all pleaded guilty after being jointly charged that on January 25, 2016 at Fitz-Hughes, they “did enter the state by boat and disembarked without the consent of an immigration officer;” also on that date “being a prohibited immigrant did enter the state by boat without a passport.”

Beh-Harry, being the captain of the vessel, was slapped with two additional charges that he “did unlawfully being the Master of ‘Let It Go’ enter the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines without notifying the Comptroller of Customs.” And “did unlawfully being the Master of “Let It Go’ permit his vessel to dock at a place other than a Customs Port.”

According to police, around 11:30 a.m., members of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) questioned the trio when they were met on the beach at Fitz-Hughes.

While being questioned, they revealed that they had been offered TT $4,000 to deliver a go-fast boat from Trinidad to St Vincent.

However, while the immigrants offered no statements to the police, they informed immigration that they had no travel documents.

During mitigation, their lawyer confirmed that the three fishermen did indeed travel to show someone the vessel for possible purchase. He explained that the captain came to land to try to purchase some credit for his phone when police intercepted him.

“They were given a welcoming that is in variance to the Vincentian hospitality; they were beaten by the police,” Connell told the court.

He argued that nothing illegal was found on his clients.

“They came in the middle of the day — 11:30, although the geographical location where they were located may be conducive to certain activities, the officers must not automatically draw a nexus to anybody who drifts in that jurisdiction to be plants that are in abundance in that area,” he said.

“Dictated by common sense, if you’re going fishing or to meet another fishing boat in open water where do you fill out as your next port? You can’t fill out the form! If that was the case every fisherman who leaves St Vincent has to clear with customs and immigration to go fishing, that doesn’t make sense,” Connell further argued.

The lawyer said the charge laid against his clients was an unfortunate one.

He told the court that the Chateaubelair customs, which is located at a little house on the right side of the dock, is closed 90 per cent of the time.

“My God, if a boat comes in at Fitz-Hughes… it is a justifiable reason for Caribbean nationals to be on our shores.”

Connell then brought the court’s attention the condition of the men, two of whom stood barefoot in the defendant’s box. He additionally claimed that Muhammed is somewhat of a mental patient, who was taken fishing by his brother, Beh-Harry.

“The most he can tell me is ‘Mr Connell boy, I get some ole thump by them police, boy,’” Connell said, causing the court to erupt in laughter.

He then asked the court for leniency.

“They have gone through quite enough,” he said, further requesting a fine that would reflect their income.

With regard to the offence of entering the state without a passport, chief magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias stated, “I have taken a stance already, several times, with regard to that offence… I don’t really take a bad stance with that offence because it’s possible to travel on your ID card.”

She, therefore, ruled that the time spent on remand would be their sentence for that offence.

However, with regard to entering the state without the consent of an immigration officer, she said she doesn’t know if Customs was indeed closed and fined the trio $300 each forthwith; failure to pay would result in one month imprisonment.

Beh-Harry, the boat’s captain, was given an additional sentence for the two extra charges laid against him.

The chief magistrate informed him that the offences carry a maximum fine of $5,000 on each charge, which she did not consider appropriate in this circumstance.

She went on to fine him for both offences, in the sum of $2,500 each to be paid forthwith or in default, six months in prison.

Describing the allegations that had been made against the police as “unfortunate,” Browne-Matthias said she advises police officers to use brain over brawn.

“I usually advise and advocate for brains over brawn any day; that is how policing should practised.”

SEARCHLIGHT understands that provisions are being put in place for the trio’s return to Trinidad.(AS)