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Court's Faulty Air-Condition System Delays Human Trafficking Case

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A WOMAN awaiting trial on allegations related to human trafficking had her case adjourned for a month because of a malfunctioning air-conditioning system at the Magistrate Courts complex.

Abigail Wilson, 20, appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt for the expected start of her case on four counts of trafficking in persons allegedly committed between March and May 26 of this year.

The charges were brought under Section 3 (1)(a) of the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act Chapter 106.

It is alleged that the Jamaican, being concerned with others, recruited, received, harboured and transported a woman to and within the Bahamas for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

She pleaded not guilty to all of the allegations at her May 30 arraignment and was expected to stand trial on July 12 and 13.

However, on Wednesday, the case was adjourned by 24 hours because the court complex had to be closed at 1pm due to a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit.

It was expected that the matter would be resolved by yesterday when she and her lawyer Bernard Ferguson reappeared for the case.

However, the chief magistrate explained to her the matter would have to be adjourned again to August 15, 16 and 17.

"In as much as I am chief magistrate, the decision to close the building and allow staff to go home early, I must consult with those above concerning the administration of justice," the judge said.

"But it is inhumane to continue in these conditions and I do not see how we can proceed with a matter that has far reaching implications against you.

"We're still in the same position. The air conditioning is not working and it is unbearable," the chief magistrate said shortly before officially receiving notice to close the court complex to the public at noon.

The waiting areas of the court complex had to be constantly mopped due to condensation from the faulty a/c system.

Complaints of structural issues at the various courts are not new and have been documented over the years.

In late October 2013, there was a plumbing issue that caused sewage back up for two days at the multi-million dollar South Street and Nassau Street court complex that was officially opened in January 2012.

Cases were adjourned due to the partial flooding in the foyer and cellblock of the compound that produced an unbearable stench.

On November 5, 2013, in the Supreme Court, Senior Justice Vera Watkins adjourned matters because of a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit and plumbing problems in the court.

She was scheduled to conduct bail applications and case management hearings, but the air-conditioner had been out of service for over a week at the time. Mould was also reported to be forming in the courtroom.

In January 2016, Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley stressed that a number of the existing structural issues with court buildings continue to interfere with the administration of justice and that the judiciary would be more efficient if it received additional funding and had control of its own finances.

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