Tuesday, February 20, 2018

$1.6m bail for Penny’s relatives

In court for possession of guns, ammo...


SISTER-IN-LAW: Janice Beckles. —Photos: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

A cumulative total of $1.6 million in bail was granted to four relatives of People’s National Movement (PNM) leadership candidate Pennelope Beckles-Robinson yesterday morning by Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno, after they appeared in the Arima Magistrates’ First Court charged with firearm and ammunition possession. 

The four relatives of Beckles-Robinson, who is challenging Dr Keith Rowley for the leadership of the PNM, all stood in silence as they were brought before the court shortly after 11.30 a.m.  

Beckles-Robinson’s brother, Lincoln Beckles, 54; his wife Janice; their son Brandon, 26; and Lincoln Beckles’ brother-in-law, Wayne Farrell, 52, were jointly charged with the possession of four high-powered firearms and 12 rounds of ammunition. 

It is alleged that on Saturday, at a house along Swift Road, Phase 3, Malabar, the four accused had in their possession a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, a 12 gauge pump action shotgun, and an AK-47.

The four also allegedly had in their possession 12 rounds of ammunition—six rounds of .38 special ammunition and .44 special ammunition. 

The charges were laid indictably and none of the accused was called on to enter a plea. 

The four were represented by senior counsel Pamela Elder, while the State was represented by police prosecutor Sgt Valere Leon. Sgt Matthew Haywood was the complainant in the matter.

After the charges were read and a description of the exhibits was given to the court, the senior attorney took the opportunity to deliver a stirring bail application. 

“On behalf of all four clients, I make a most respectful application for bail. All four stand before you here with a previously unblemished criminal record. Before this incident, none of my clients had any dealings with the law, and they were all persons of good character as they had no pending matters, nor any previous convictions,” Elder explained. 

She noted that Lincoln was gainfully employed as a manager at National Flour Mills and was the owner of the home where the weapons were found.

Elder said Janice Beckles was a housewife who supported her husband and their son on a daily basis.

Brandon Beckles, said Elder, still lived at home with his parents and was employed as a clerical assistant at the University of the West Indies—from which he graduated in 2010.

She also revealed Farrell was a joiner by occupation and he lived at the Malabar home with his sister and her family. 

“Your worship, it is with all this in mind that I ask you to exercise your discretion regarding these four, and to also take into account that this case is not one of actual possession, but rather construction possession, and this is why there are four persons before you this morning. In light of their unblemished record, the nature of the offence, and the nature of the circumstance in which these items were allegedly discovered, I am asking your worship this morning to grant bail, to grant reasonable bail, to these four accused, especially as there is no statutory impediment preventing you from doing so, even with the recent amendment to the Bail Act. And I am sure the police will not have an objection given these circumstances either,” said Elder. 

In response, Sgt Leon noted that while the State had no objection to bail, she did ask the court to bear in mind the seriousness of the offences that the four were charged with, and the fact that the weapons that were seized at the Malabar home were “the weapons of choice” for several gun-related offences. 

After hearing further contributions from both sides, the magistrate noted that she will be granting bail to the four accused as she was not prevented from doing so by any existing statute. 

“Of course, this is one of the things which the court is concerned about, because you are quite correct regarding the recent amendment to the Bail Act. One may blindly look at the legislation on its surface and think  otherwise, but as the law currently stands, for the offences of possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, and for drug trafficking, there are concerns, as there is no statutory impediment on the issue of granting bail.  

“Because unless the matter is being heard in trial, the only matters that fall under the statute are matters which have a ten-year jail term or more. That is the only time that the court can deny bail, and this is a cause of great concern, as the possession of firearms and ammunition, especially for weapons as serious as these, can be seen as the nexus of crime, as it can be connected with a variety of intended uses, including robbery and assault,” Cedeno explained. 

The magistrate then noted she intended to place her concerns in writing, to be reviewed by the necessary authorities in the near future. 

She then proceeded to grant each of the accused persons bail at $400,000, to be approved by a clerk of the peace, to cover all four charges.

She also gave an alternative of a cash deposit of $25,000, via a manager’s cheque, should there be evidence of a legal source of funds. 

The firearms and ammunition were ordered to be taken to Forensic Science Centre, St James, where they will undergo ballistic testing, and the matter was then adjourned to April 16.