An 18-year-old student, who was sentenced to three months in prison because he couldn’t pay a $500 fine for breaking the emergency orders, was freed on Thursday after a coalition of lawyers paid his fine.
Deon Duverny spent more than a week in custody after police arrested him after 10 p.m. on August 10 for violating the lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of COVID-19.
Speaking with reporters outside the Magistrates Court Complex after his release, Duverny said police stopped him and his cousin as they headed to a Haitian village on Cowpen Road for something to eat.
He said it was his first run-in with the law.
His cousin, Kenrico Joseph, 19, is still in prison as he also lacked the means to pay the fine. The lawyers who helped free Duverny said arrangements are being made to also pay Joseph’s fine.
Despite their youth, Duverny said that Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes did not inquire about their ability to pay the fines, or give them time to accumulate the funds.
He said he was shocked when Forbes required the fine to be paid immediately.
Duverny, whose parents are dead, said that he had no relatives outside court with him.
He recalled the hardship at the prison, with officials providing just two meals a day.
Attorney Damien White spoke of other cases where magistrates gave curfew breakers time to pay the money.
“In this case, we think the ball was kind of dropped,” White said.
“Where would he, a student, have the means to pay the fine if he’s not working?
“I don’t know if the court was made aware, but as soon as we got word of his situation we saw it necessary to intercede on his behalf.”
If they didn’t, Duverny would have missed the start of the school year.
A member of the group, attorney Claude Hanna, said, “This is just one of the many situations where these regulations and orders are disproportionately putting a burden on the less fortunate in our society.”
Bjorn Ferguson said the lawyers are of the view that the emergency orders that imposed the curfew are unconstitutional.
Ferguson said, “As Mr. Hanna said, it’s disproportionately impacting the weak among our society. A young man criminalized before he started enjoying life. This can’t be The Bahamas that we want. Fundamentally, we say that this is unconstitutional.”