By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A NUMBER of magisterial matters were adjourned and/or affected by a three-hour long power outage at the Magistrate’s Court complex on Friday, The Tribune understands.
Senior officials attached to the Nassau and South Street’s court complex told The Tribune that no trial matters were heard by any magistrates on Friday, and that all such matters were adjourned.
In fact, one case expected to commence today, the trial of four Haitian nationals accused of trying to leave the country with over $33,000, was adjourned to April 30 as a result of the power outage.
The Tribune was also informed that a particular arraignment expected to open before Court no. 5, which has no windows, was also adjourned due to the power outage, along with all of its other matters.
Court no. 9, the Chief Magistrate’s Court, was in operation on Friday, but was being used by the Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain due to the natural light it afforded her by its windows as opposed to her courtroom upstairs, which has none.
And during the hearing of those matters, the deputy chief magistrate had to resort to using her cell phone flashlight to read the various dockets and/or take notes of the proceedings.
The prosecutor stationed in that court had to either use a cellphone flashlight or position himself in such a way that whatever light was coming in through the windows (it was not particularly sunny at that point) would land on whatever he needed to read.
According to officials stationed at court, the power went out shortly after 9am. The court complex has a generator, but several officials told The Tribune it wasn’t functioning properly “for whatever reason”.
When The Tribune arrived, a number of persons were gathered outside on the steps, and with the presence of a fire truck just outside the premises on South Street, led this reporter to believe something else had happened.
However, upon walking up to the main doors, The Tribune observed the main lobby of the complex was in utter darkness, and only attorneys, police officers, court officials and the press were being allowed inside.
The power also appeared to be out at the Nassau Street Police Station, as a northern-facing door, which is usually always closed if not in use, was propped open. The power was also off at the nearby Police Prosecution’s Office.
While The Tribune was covering the arraignment of an RBC employee accused of stealing some $60,000 from his employer last year, the power came on for roughly ten seconds before flickering off again.
The power eventually came back on shortly after 12:20, restoring electricity to the court complex, the Nassau Street Police Station as well as the Police Prosecution’s Office.
The Tribune did observe a BPL truck stationed on the intersection of Nassau Street and Infant View Road, seemingly doing work on their wires there shortly after noon. The truck left when the power was restored.
Nonetheless, one senior court official complained about the three hour-long power outage, stating: “BPL needs to be more responsible when they doing work in the area. They can’t just cut off people light.”
Attorney Dion Smith, present at the court complex during the outage, said while he was not particularly annoyed about the power outage itself, he was upset that the back-up generator was not functioning at the time.
“This is the court,” he said. “You don’t have persons that are only here having matters adjourned. You have persons who are being arraigned for the first time, you know? What’s going to happen to them? What is going to happen to their family members on the outside who don’t know what’s happening to their loved ones on the inside?
“So I really am disappointed that the generator is not working. Not the power outage itself because I don’t know a lot about why it’s out.”
Friday’s power outage came a day after New Providence was struck by an island wide power outage. And that outage came minutes after BPL’s CEO Whitney Heastie outlined steps BPL plans to scale down service disruption in anticipation of a hot summer.
In its first of many press statements updating customers of the situation, BPL said the outage occurred around 11:30am on Thursday because of an equipment failure at one of the substations at the Baillou Hills Power Plant.
However, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard said the disruption in service was due to an explosion at substation eight in the Baillou Hills plant.
Nonetheless, BPL’s line staff and managerial unions, in a joint statement reportedly in response to reports that the company will soon make job cuts as it seeks to make some of its systems automated, said this summer could be a “very dark and hot” one for customers.
They stated: “The unions at BPL will not be pushed around. We are putting the country on notice that if the board and executive management decide that they are going to go to the press and the public and try to intimidate us, we are going to have a very dark and hot summer.
“We are categorically stating that the employees at BPL do not take kindly to our jobs being threatened in any shape or form.”