From the Courts
June 29, 2021
Court imposes $1200 fine on St Lucia national

A ST LUCIAN who was slapped with four immigration charges last week said that his reason for being in the state for over a month was simply to buy conch.

On the morning of Sunday, June 20, the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) was on mobile patrol duties along the Clare Valley public road when they spotted a group of people, among which was a person smoking a cannabis cigarette.

A constable asked the transport to stop, and the police alighted, approaching the persons. They requested a search of the individuals, with the intention of checking for controlled drugs.

However, when constable Pompey questioned 26-year-old John Gustav, he found that the young man had an accent. Questioned about which country he is from, Gustav revealed that he is St Lucian. He also confirmed that he came by boat a month before and didn’t clear with Immigration when he did so. Gustav was arrested and charged with knowingly and willing allowing himself to be landed as a prohibited immigrant; entering the state other than at a port of entry; entering the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines as a prohibited immigrant without a passport; and entering the state by boat and disembarking without the consent of an Immigration officer. He acknowledged his guilt to these offences at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) on Tuesday, June 22.

His explanation: “Came to buy some conchs sir.”

There was some questioning as to whether there is a closed season for conch in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), in an attempt to test this explanation. While there isn’t a closed season for conch in either SVG or St Lucia, export of the animal is governed by regulations, and processes.

“Tell me how you normally sell conchs in St Vincent?” Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett asked the young man, who noted that it was $10 a pound.

Gustav said his captain told him that he wanted to buy conch, and that it was his first time in the country.

“…Based on the facts, you were here for a month,” the magistrate also asked, “so you came to buy conch for a whole month?”

“Man I don’t know man,” Burnett commented, “Be honest and truthful with the court because we are sensible people here…” However, the defendant stuck to his story.

He also ordered that  Gustav  be deported to St. Lucia.

In the end, the judicial officer decided to impose a fine on Gustav, to the tune of $300 for each offence, amounting to a total of $1200 . Being a non-national with no ties to the country, he was ordered to pay the fine forthwith, or a default will be imprisoned for two months.

Outside the court, as he was getting onto the transport, the defendant was given words of encouragement by some persons who seemed to know him.

{Updated at 3:32pm on June 29th 2021, to reflect that an order was also made by the magistrate for Gustav to be deported}