June 18, 2024

Judge wants quicker turnaround for ‘fast track’ cases

Justice Randall Worrell believes the courts’ current ‘fast track’ system must be sped up to allow those seeking to enter a guilty plea to get to the Barbados High Court more quickly.

Moments before informing Michael Jackson, a boat captain of Questelles, St Vincent; Brendon Ollivierre, a chief engineer of La Pomp, Bequia; and Jake-Jess McPherson King, a deckhand of Mount Pleasant, Bequia that they will finish serving their sentences in less than two months, the judge insisted that the fast track system was not moving quickly enough as he considered the delay in the matter being brought to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, the Vincentians had pleaded guilty that on April 27, 2021, they had 176.9 kilogrammes of cannabis, that they had a trafficable quantity of the drug; and to its importation.

Justice Worrell said: “The issue that this court has is that this is not a murder case, this is not a manslaughter case. This is a case where the most it could have depended on is a certificate indicating the drugs were drugs and possibly one or two other witnesses.

“I think we have to be creative and realise that one day of delay will add to the backlog, two days of delay will add to the backlog, so will three days. There must be some measure put in place whereby persons in the Magistrates’ Court or even in the police station indicate early, that they can be quickly fast-tracked. We have fast track already but that is not working so there has to be a quickening of the fast track process. In this matter, I do not see why your matter could not have reached the High Courts within a three-month period”.

During their reappearance in the No. 2 Supreme Court on Friday, the judge pointed out several aggravating factors, including that there was a degree of planning, the amount of drugs, that the venture

was for financial gain and that it had been conducted in the territorial waters of another country. Those mitigating were that the contraband was seized and there was no violence used in the commission of the offence.

Justice Worrell agreed with Principal State Counsel, Olivia Davis’ starting point of seven years and reduced this by one year due to the mitigating factors of the offenders.

Two years were deducted for their early guilty plea, in addition to the 1 134 days they spent on remand. They were also awarded 326 days for the delay in the matter being brought to trial.

After he convicted, reprimanded and discharged each of the men on the possession and importation charges, the judge said: “On the count of drug trafficking, you have been sentenced to seven years and after the relevant deductions, you are left with 56 days to serve.”

Andrew Pilgrim KC represented Ollivierre; Angella Mitchell-Gittens SC represented Jackson; while King had Martie Garnes as his defence lawyer.(Barbados Today)