Jamaican Matthew Sewell leaves court with his lawyer Fred Smith after being released from detention last year.
Photo: Jay Isaacs/JKL Media
By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
JAMAICAN Matthew Sewell was granted $6,500 bail by a magistrate on Thursday ahead of his trial concerning the latest allegation of sexual assault brought against him in the past decade.
The 27-year-old was told by Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt that he would be electronically monitored until his matter is brought to trial in the Supreme Court. He is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl between the night of January 18 and early morning of January 19.
Sewell’s lead counsel, Fred Smith, QC, told The Tribune that he was pleased with the court’s decision.
A week after the alleged incident, Sewell was arraigned in Magistrate’s Court and was told that a voluntary bill of indictment (VBI) will be presented to him on March 17 for the case to be fast-tracked to the higher court.
His second of three lawyers, Alex Morley, had asked the chief magistrate to grant bail on the basis that there were no substantial grounds that he would abscond, interfere with witnesses or the course of justice.
He had also supplied the court with a copy of the writ of habeas corpus granting his client’s release from the state’s custody last year because he had spent nine years in and out of prison without trial for a number of criminal offences, including two sexual assault cases that were discontinued by the Crown.
A week later, Crown lawyer Kendra Kelly opposed bail, arguing that Sewell did not have legal status to work or reside in the country. She also said that this case was the third alleged complaint of sexual assault since Sewell came to the Bahamas in June 2006.
However, the chief magistrate told the prosecutor that the Office of the Attorney General could not arbitrarily object to bail as Adrian Gibson, Sewell’s third lawyer, pointed out.
Sewell’s first run-in with authorities was in June 2006 when, at the age of 18, he was granted three weeks stay to visit his father in the Bahamas before finding himself accused of raping a six-year-old girl.
He was released on bail in 2008, but was arrested in April 2009 and charged with the alleged rape of a girlfriend.
He was held in custody as an inmate from April 2009 to August 2013.
Shortly after he was granted bail, Mr Sewell said he was transferred to the Detention Centre on the grounds that he had no legal status to live in the country.
Two months after entering the Detention Centre in October 2013, he was charged with housebreaking, an accusation he denied. Five months later, he was accused of murder.
On October 31, 2014, he made his first scheduled appearance before Justice Bernard Turner on the murder charge, all the other charges already having been dismissed for various reasons.
In November of that year, the murder charge was dismissed and he was turned over to the Detention Centre.
In October 2015, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs ordered the immediate release of Sewell from the detention facility.
Sewell has since filed a civil suit against the government and, as he did in the habeas corpus hearing, is using the historic case of Atain Takitota as a legal authority where the Japanese man was awarded more than $1m in damages for his unlawful detention.