By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO suretors found themselves strapped with a $500 fine or alternative prison sentence yesterday, because the man they stood $7,500 bail for on a drug possession charge failed to turn up for numerous court dates.
Magistrate Andrew Forbes was lenient on the two women who signed a bail form for Craig Nicolls, informing them that they would have to pay $500 each as a fine.
“If you don’t pay by 3pm, the court will hold you in contempt and you will be committed to prison for a month,” he said, further advising that “in the future, if you are going to sign bail, you better ensure that they show up to court unless they are worth going to jail for”.
The two suretors were summoned before Magistrate Forbes to explain why they did not fulfil their end of the contract to ensure that Nicolls attended court.
The women replied that they didn’t know they were responsible for his attendance.
The answer prompted Magistrate Forbes to asked if they read the full contents of the bail form they signed. The document notes that they would forfeit $7,500 to the court if the conditions of bail were breached.
“I didn’t read that part on the form,” one of the women said. The other suretor said the same.
“So you both signed a piece of paper without reading it first?” the judge questioned, asking if they would do the same if the paper had ordered that the forfeit their lives if bail was breached.
Both apologised to the court after being rebuked for failing to ask responsible questions at the time when they stood bail.
“There’s never a stupid question,” the judge said, adding: “If you don’t know, you don’t know. But you have to ask somebody.”
The magistrate said they had until 3pm to find a way to produce the court’s $7,500 or “y’all are looking at a prison sentence.”
“Seventy-five hundred dollars is no laughing matter when you say you’re going to stand bail for someone accused of committing an offence. If this was the Supreme Court, the judge would’ve demanded the money on the spot,” he said.
Magistrate Forbes said even if he accepted that they hadn’t read about the consequences they faced for failing to ensure Nicolls came to court, they also failed to ensure he reported regularly to a police station as required.
He told them to have a seat and figure out how they would get the money before 3pm.
Both women started crying as the magistrate went on to deal with other matters before recalling them 15 minutes later.
“While I note the tears you are shedding at the moment, I want to impress you how serious this is. I’m not doing this because I’m being mean or being heartless. I just want you to get an appreciation that you have a responsibility as a citizen of this country to respect and adhere to what you have agreed to do,” he said.
Then, the magistrate said: “I am not going to ask you to pay the $7,500. I am going to ask you to pay $500 each as a fine. If you don’t pay by 3pm, the court will hold you in contempt and you will be committed to prison for a month.
“And in the future, if you are going to sign bail, you better ensure that they show up to court unless they are worth going to jail for.
“I could insist on the $7,500 today or you could be looking at a prison sentence but I won’t do so. When the monies are paid, you will be released.”