By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
CHIEF Magistrate Emma Garo has on Monday refused bail for the three expatriates accused of illegally entered the country last month.
Matthew Adam Carter, Charles James Ewan Glenny and Braeton Hunter Mitchell from Great Britain and the United States of America are each facing one count of the prohibition of entry of non-citizens contrary to clause 4 of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19 (Prohibition of Entry of Non-Citizens) Order 2020 as read with Regulations 8 (1) (2) and (3) of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020.
Public Prosecutor Jonathan Auga on Saturday applied for a 14-day remand while Andrew Radclyffe who represents the three accused asked the court to release his clients on bail.
The prosecution made their remand application based on the grounds that the three accused have no fixed address in Honiara, they provided no surety and that they might abscond bail.
Auga also raised a concern as to who will pay for the accused’s bill because the government had already spent $60, 0000 towards the cost of the three accused being quarantined at Honiara Hotel.
Auga submitted that prosecution is concern the three accused may abscond bail or skip bail based on information from the Chief Immigration Officer that the three men did not get any outward clearance from immigration in New Caledonia.
He also submitted that there is no evidence of their travel history and because of this the three men are a flight risk.
Auga sought to tender the statement of the Chief Immigration Officer but Radclyffe pointed out that this is a remand application.
Ms. Garo however refused to accept the statement of the Chief Immigration Officer without, the Chief Immigration Officer being called to give evidence in court.
She said the court cannot even for a remand application accept the tender of statements of witnesses intended to be called by prosecution without the consent of the accused.
Garo said the court had time and again had to remind lawyers to stop giving evidence from the bar table and to either present the evidence to court by calling the witness to give evidence or filed the sworn statement with the court.
Auga told the court in his submissions that police and immigration are still investigating this matter given that there are additional charges that may be filed regarding immigration offences and these information are yet to be obtained.
Radclyffe in response to the grounds raised by the prosecution submitted that it must be expected that foreigners who enter the country cannot be expected to have a fixed or permanent address in Honiara.
He said his clients have made arraignments to stay at the Honiara Hotel whilst waiting for their case to be dealt with.
Radclyffe submitted that the arrangement for the accused to reside at Honiara Hotel is a matter between the accused and the hotel and the crown does not have to worry about who will pay for the bill.
In terms of the issue of surety, Radclyffe said there is no requirement in law that a defendant must provide a surety before he or she can be granted bail.
He argued that the passports of the defendants are in the custody of immigration officials and the yacht they had traveled in is currently being detained by Customs and is anchored at the Mbokona (Aola Base) Marine Police base.
He also confirmed that Glenny’s passport expired on 28 May 2020 but explained that he had been informed that the British High Commission is aware of his situation and if he is free to travel he will be issued with a passport.
Garo in her ruling yesterday accepted the submission made by the defence that there is no possibility of the three accused absconding bail.
She also not satisfied with the prosecution that the accused will interfere with any witness given that it is likely that all prosecution witnesses will be government officials, there are no evidence they will interfere with prosecution witness.
She, however, said the court was informed the accused made arrangements to stay at the Honiara Hotel whilst attending to their case but no information had been provided to the court to confirm that the Honiara Hotel management had accepted the arraignments made by the accused to reside at the hotel whilst their case is pending before the court to be dealt with.
“A confirmation from Honiara Hotel Management that such an arrangement had been agreed to would have enabled this court to make further consequential orders deemed fit to be made, if and in the event that the court exercises its discretion to grant bail,” Garo added.
She said the maximum penalty for the offence the accused have been charged with is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years.
“It is accepted that the defendants did not go through clearance with Immigration or Customs.
“The explanation given by Mr. Radclyffe to the Court is that the defendants were arrested and detained before they could have their papers stamped.”
Garo said the explanation given by Mr Radclyffe is difficult to accept in so far as it concerns the defendant Charles James Ewan Glenny whose passport, it is also accepted expired on 28 May 2020, 22 days before his alleged illegal entry into the Solomon Islands in breach of the Prohibition of Entry of Non-Citizen section 4 of the Emergency Power (Covid-19) (Prohibition of Entry of Non-Citizens Orders) with the other two co-defendants.
“How then does he expect to be given a permit to enter the country on an expired passport?
“From 19 June 2020 to 4 July 2020, it would have been 16 days since their alleged entry into the country with an exemption order from the Prime Minister.
“It would be in my view unrealistic to expect the authorities to complete all investigations, consider, formulate, and prefer all relevant charges against the defendants.”
Garo was of the view that it is in the public’s interest to allow the police, immigration, and customs to explore and consider the possibility of preferring other charges against the defendants.
In refusing the bail she said public interest in this regard must override the liberty of the defendants.
The matter will return to court again on July 13 for a possible plea, pretrial conference, or mention.