By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
MATTHEW Sewell’s desire to remain in The Bahamas amid legal disputes does not give him the automatic right to be here, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Ambrose Armbrister made the remark during his objection to bail for the 27-year-old Jamaican during a hearing before Justice Bernard Turner in the Supreme Court.
Prior to the arguments, Justice Turner had ruled in the Crown’s favour on the unconstitutionality of the February 18 decision of Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt to release Sewell on $6,500 bail ahead of trial on a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
He is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl between the night of January 18 and early morning of January 19.
The court said the existing Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act under which Sewell was charged did not allow the magistrate to have the discretion to consider bail.
Meanwhile, Justice Turner allowed Sewell’s lawyers, Alex Morley and Adrian Gibson, to be heard on a renewed bail application given the circumstances.
Mr Morley argued that it would not be unreasonable for Sewell to be released on bail given his client’s lack of antecedents and community ties to the jurisdiction through his Bahamian stepmother.
He also reminded the judge that his client had been in the country since 2006 and detained for some time for a number of criminal offences but was never tried up until his ordered release by Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs in October 2015.
Mr Morley said a copy of the writ of habeas corpus and subsequent judgment granting his client’s release were in the affidavits filed in Sewell’s bail application.
He said the decision of the court had yet to be appealed.
Letters from Immigration Director William Pratt denying Sewell’s application for a 12-month work permit and a response from his attorney Fred Smith’s request for a further re-consideration was presented to the court.
“He does not intend to leave The Bahamas and has instructed his lawyer to apply for a judicial review into the decision,” Mr Morley added.
The lawyer also raised issues of health concerns, noting that within a week of his client’s arraignment, Sewell was hospitalised after ingesting glass shards that were in his food at the prison.
The authorities at the Department of Correctional Services had yet to respond to queries, the court was told.
Mr Morley asserted that Sewell, who denies knowing the complainant who alleged that he sexually assaulted her, feels authorities are targeting him.
“The only thing before this court is an allegation which has not been challenged at trial as yet and he is presumed innocent,” Mr Morley said.
“There’s no substantial grounds for believing that he will abscond, interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice.”
In response, Mr Armbrister argued that Sewell’s nine years in and out of custody could not constitute establishing ties to The Bahamas.
He noted that Sewell’s expired Jamaican passport at the time of his release from prison “was an impediment against removing” him from the country.
“Since the habeas corpus, that document has been renewed. It was renewed on November 17, 2015, and expires November 16, 2025. At the time of the habeas corpus, this was not the fact before the judge,” the prosecutor said.
He added: “There was no order from the judge that he be given a work permit and with his passport renewed, there’s no impediment to him leaving the country voluntarily. Just because he wants to stay here doesn’t mean he has the right to stay here.”
The prosecutor asked the court to also consider the seriousness of the offence and the incentive for absconding.
Justice Turner said he would render a decision on March 3 at 10am.
Sewell remains on bail and is being electronically monitored.