COA reminds magistrate of limitations

The Court of Appeal has reminded magistrates of their jurisdiction after a magistrate “vacated” a prison sentence handed to a drug convict.

The ruling handed down last week was critical of Magistrate Charlton Smith’s handling of the case of Stanley Adam Pratt, who pleaded guilty to a single count of drug possession with intent to supply on July 12, 2019.

Police arrested Pratt and two others following the seizure of 4.42 pounds of marijuana in Freeport.

Smith initially sentenced Pratt to one year in prison and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine in order to avoid spending an extra six months in prison.

However, Pratt never spent a day in prison.

Four days after his initial ruling, Smith “vacated” the prison sentence and fined Pratt $5,000.

Pratt paid the money in order to avoid spending one year in prison.

The day before Pratt complied with the second sentence, he filed an appeal against the initial sentence on the grounds it was unduly severe.

His lawyer, Simone Brown, sought leave to abandon the appeal against the sentence of imprisonment when the appeal was called up on November 25, 2020.

Pratt has since relocated to Canada.

At the hearing, Justice of Appeal Jon Isaacs said, “I am troubled by two things. One, that counsel saw fit to go back before the magistrate to revisit a matter already adjudicated upon by the magistrate, and, second, that the magistrate entertained such an application.”

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Neil Brathwaite said his office only became aware of the purported second sentence while reviewing the record to prepare for the appeal.

For that reason, the DPP didn’t appeal the second sentence on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction, he said.

Brathwaite acknowledged that the magistrate’s second sentence was null and void. However, he said if the court were to enforce the first sentence, it would “result in an injustice to the appeal through no fault of his own, but rather due to an error of the magistrate”.

He suggested that the court substitute the second sentence for the original one.

The Court of Appeal in its ruling said that Pratt was still subject to the original sentence. However, the tribunal left it up to the state to determine if it would be enforced.

The court said that magistrates needed to be aware of their powers and said that Smith’s authority in the case ended after he convicted and sentenced the defendant.

“It was not competent for the magistrate to vacate his sentence,” the Court of Appeal said.

“In the future, magistrates should be aware of the limits of their jurisdiction and govern themselves accordingly.”

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Artesia Davis

Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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