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Ministers Accused Of Child Cruelty, One Faces Indecent Assault Charge

Arsenio Butler and Devin Sears at a previous court appearance.

Arsenio Butler and Devin Sears at a previous court appearance.

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

TWO ministers spent the night behind bars at Her Majesty’s Prison waiting for Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt to decide today if she will grant them bail. They are accused of giving a 15-year-old boy liquor to get him drunk. One is also accused of indecent assault.

However, yesterday’s decision to remand the Ruth Street residents, Arsenio Butler, 27, and Devin Sears, 25, was not taken well by their church supporters.

Bishop Walter Hanchell of the Great Commission Ministries, located two doors down from the People’s Assembly Word Centre, called on Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett to look into the Magistrate’s action, claiming that there was a personal vendetta in this matter.

Both accused of the People’s Assembly Word Centre faced a charge of cruelty to children, alleged to have been committed between January 31 and February 1. It is claimed that they gave a teenage boy alcohol “in a manner likely to cause injury to his health.”

Arsenio Butler, a pastor-elect, was separately charged with indecent assault. It is alleged that he put his hand down the young man’s pants.

Both men pleaded not guilty.

When the question of bail arose, the police prosecutor said he had no objection to bail being granted. However, the chief magistrate said she would defer a decision on bail until Thursday at 2pm and would remand the two to prison until that time.

Their lawyer Romona Farquharson-Seymour, who expressed surprise at the court’s action and submitted that her clients were not only presumed innocent until proven otherwise by law, but also had no previous convictions and turned themselves in when police had asked for them.

She said if anything, they should be remanded to the station and not have to go through such an experience at the prison.

The magistrate reiterated that she was not denying bail, but deferring bail until 2pm today to allow her to see in which court the matter would be tried.

Outside the court complex where supporters and onlookers watched the two young men being escorted to a holding cell at the back, Bishop Hanchell called the arraignment “ugly.”

“I’ve never seen a more ugly scene in a courtroom by a magistrate, who supposed to know that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, deferring bail for somebody that the prosecutor have no objection to bail because of a personal vendetta,” the Bishop claimed.

“And I cry shame. We need to speak to the Chief Justice about this and get some type of relief because now they are causing two men who are innocent to go and spend a night in Fox Hill Prison. It is wrong.”

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