On page 24, of this newspaper, yesterday, is the face of a Ronald Howard entering the Magistrates’ court yard to appear on the charge of possession of a smoking utensil. Magistrate Latchman asked him three times; “did you use a pen cover to smoke cocaine? At first, he was confused, when the question was first put to him. He answered on the third occasion and said no.
AFC Member of Parliament, and Attorney-at-Law, Charrandas Persaud had a letter in this newspaper in which he contended that the item is never produced in court. He argued that the item should be there to be ascertained of its true nature. If this man was charged with possession of a smoking utensil, then the procedure as I have known it for so long, is that the magistrate would ask the prosecutor to hold up the item, and then direct he question as such; “Did you use this instrument that the prosecutor has in his hand to smoke cocaine.?”
How can the magistrate ask him about a pen cover? A pen cover is a pen cover. You cannot be charged for possession of a pen cover for the purpose of smoking cocaine, because it is legal to have a pen cover. I am absolutely positive that most drivers have a pen in his/her car. If this man was before the court for having a smoking instrument, then why did she ask him about a pen cover? Why wasn’t the item produced in court?
One day a few months ago, I was in Budget Supermarket on Sheriff Street when Magistrate Latchman came in with her father and introduced her dad to me. I can recall distinctly telling her I have nothing personal against her, but I have my work to do as a media analyst. She said she understood. I hope if we meet again in public she is prepared to answer a question from me about professionalism in the magistracy. I have written about this countless times.
I believe poor people’s rights are constantly being abused in the lower courts and the politicians who make such laws should step in. I will pen another column on evaluation of magistrates when they go on to the higher bench, that is, the High Court. This has become necessary, since there is a statement by the Government itself calling for more transparency in judicial appointments. I refer readers to last Sunday Kaieteur News, page 9.
The Government has gone on record as saying it wants “a more transparent, recruitment and selection process employed to appoint persons to sit at the helm of the judiciary”.
That for me who have studied this society is an impeccable statement. I could write a book on magisterial mediocrity and magisterial abuse of the law. I insist and I will always insist in these columns that I will not be deterred in offering my opinions. It is my opinion that Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan should not be made a judge. It has already been done, so I cannot stop it. But if I could, I would have done it. It is not personal. I am just doing my work. I do not think Ms. McLennan has the erudition that is needed to become a judge, and I think there is evidence that could support my opinion that it has not been an enlightened performance. When a Chief Magistrate is elevated to the High Court, before that is done there must be an evaluation process.
We have sunk so deeply into mediocrity in this country that UG lecturers have complained to me that the awarding of professorship in 2017 has become comical. How could one become a judge after sitting on the lower bench without an assessment of his/her performance?
So we return to our original curiosity – what is a smoking utensil? Should a person be charged for the mere possession of a smoking utensil?
Aubrey Norton and I were guests of channel 9’s programme on 51 years of independence last Sunday. We both conclude that we have fallen back. For me, we are going back further and further into past, primitive ages. To charge a man with possession of a smoking utensil and not actual possession of the drug is utterly stupid. But it is on the statute books. And to think that they are very powerful people in the government that are opposed to the changes in the law relating to the sentence for possession of small amounts of ganja.
We are not going only going back in primitive times; we shouldn’t be part of the modern world period!
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