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Charges were laid to send a message to persons in the diaspora – lawyer

Charges were laid to send a message to persons in the diaspora – lawyer

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The matter in which calypsonian Paul ‘I-Madd’ Scrubb has been charged is a witch-hunt intended to satisfy some of the intended provisions in the Cyber-crime Bill, which is now before Parliament.

This is the view of lawyer Israel Bruce, which he shared yesterday, while commenting on the case in which he and Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell are counsel.

Scrubb, a Vincentian who has resided in the United States for over 20 years, faces two charges that he, between December 9 and 31, 2015, uttered seditious words and that he maliciously sent or uttered threats to kill, to wit: “Ralph Gonsalves should be assassinated, also his whole damn family period. Blessed Love.”{{more}}

He was not allowed to plead; however, no objections were made to his bail, which was granted in the sum of $25,000 with one surety.

He is to report to the Calliaqua Police Station twice a week, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Another bail provision is that if he wishes to leave the state, he needs the expressed permission of the court. Scrubb was ordered to surrender all travel documents and stop notices were placed at all ports.

A preliminary inquiry into the matter is scheduled for October 31, 2016, after the court was told that the investigating officer requested three months to further prepare his case.

Speaking on Nice Radio’s New Times programme yesterday, Barnwell disclosed that her client was leaving the country last Friday when he was approached by police officers at the ET Joshua airport, who asked him to go with them.

According to her, Scrubb went peacefully and when he arrived at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) he inquired as to why he was there and was informed that it had to do with something he posted on Facebook.

In addition, Bruce pointed out that Scrubb had been in SVG for five weeks before he was arrested.

“You’d find it very strange that there’s an application by the Crown this morning that they would need some three months to prepare their case against Mr Scrubb, so I wonder where is the application of the full code test.”

Bruce explained that a full code test says that there must be an evidential sufficiency before proceeding and even on the presence of an evidential sufficiency, “you must ask yourself whether or not it is in the national interest to proceed with the matter.”

“Clearly, if you have a matter of the type for which Mr Scrubb was charged, there’s a national interest, but where is the evidential sufficiency? If you had that, why would you need three months as of today’s date to investigate before you can properly lay your case in the court?”

Bruce is adamant that the charges were laid to send a message to persons in the diaspora to not say anything because when they visit St Vincent and the Grenadines they could be arrested.

“But this man has a job; you know what that means? By virtue of upholding the request to have him here for three more months, his job goes into jeopardy; he loses that job; nobody cares. And you doing that now, so you ask for him to stay here for three months whilst you investigate.”

The lawyer said it is strange that the incident occurred around December last year, seven months ago, yet the police requested three more months to investigate.

He concluded that the ultimate objective is to scare Scrubb and others.

“But for those who intend to succeed on scaremongering, they will get one message. It will not work! The people in the diaspora will be resolved to speak about the issues in St Vincent,” he asserted.

Bruce added that the utterances alleged were not made by Scrubb. He, however, stated that it is a legal hurdle which he would not address.

During her interview on Nice Radio, Barnwell said freedom of expression in SVG is under threat.

She noted that her client was charged with threat to murder, which holds a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, and uttering seditious words, which holds a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

“My training tells me that when you are going to bring such a serious offence against someone, a good bit of that investigation has been done, so that you know you have sufficient evidence,” she said.

“All these things that are happening now is for us to say as Vincentians, to look and say: ‘Hey, we want to know what is going on with our justice system’.”

Barnwell defined ‘seditious intention’ as: “to bring into hatred or contempt or to incite disaffection against the person of sovereign, Her heirs or successors, the Governor-General or the Govern-ment of St Vincent and the Grenadines by law established.”

She, however, added that there are several factors that one would consider in such a charge, namely: to excite the inhabitants of SVG; to attempt to procure the alterations otherwise by lawful means of any matter in SVG as by law established; to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in SVG; to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of SVG; to promote ill will or hostility between different classes of the population of SVG; and to incite any person to commit any crime against any person, property, public order or otherwise in disturbance of the peace.

Barnwell further noted that as of February 2015, four Caribbean countries removed criminal libel laws from their books, namely: Grenada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barduda Trinidad and Tobago (in part).(AS)

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