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Qc Smith In Thumbs-Up For ‘Flying’ Magistrate

Attorney Fred Smith.

Attorney Fred Smith.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY Fred Smith, QC, praised the government yesterday for facilitating court hearings on Inagua involving migrants accused of entering the country illegally, though he said there remains a need to provide migrants with access to legal aid.

After their conviction on Tuesday, the migrants were deported on Wednesday, proving fears that mass illegal immigration will result from rigorously adhering to laws are overblown, Mr Smith said.

“Quite the contrary, all of these people are now presumably back out of The Bahamas,” he said.

“This is not perfect, but it is a good start.”

The government has faced intense pressure from immigration advocates over longstanding practices such as deporting detained people without giving them a chance to be heard in court.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, as acting minister of immigration, said he “sent” a magistrate to Inagua Tuesday to oversee legal proceedings against 230 recently apprehended migrants.

They were subsequently deported to Haiti after pleading guilty to illegally landing. Dr Minnis said he ordered the vessels they used to be “sunk.”

He said it will now become standard practice to send a delegation to islands where migrants are detained to facilitate fair hearings and deportations.

Reacting to this yesterday, Mr Smith said: “I would like to congratulate the Attorney General Carl Bethel and (Director of Immigration) Mr Clarence Russell for turning a new leaf in their treatment of alleged illegal migrants. This is a big first step in respecting constitutional and Criminal Procedure Code rights. It is a complete break and a fresh start from the unconstitutional and illegal procedures adopted under Fred Mitchell. This is at least an attempt to respect the constitutional rights of every person in the Bahamas, whether they are Haitian or not. Haitians have rights too and if we are to mature and if we are as a nation to be respected for the democracy that we boast about having, it is important that the world sees that we are serious about due process in the Bahamas.”

Mr Smith said to perfect the process, people accused of illegally landing in the Bahamas should be given legal aid, access to advice from an independent counsel and access to an interpreter.

“I have always opposed and continue to oppose the concept of swift justice or ‘assembly line justice’ or ‘fast track justice’ because that does not protect individual circumstances and rights,” he said. “So I do hope that as our government changes its posture from the brute boorishness of the Fred Mitchell era, we also ensure that there are legal aid attorneys from the public defence clinic as well as prosecutors available and that people who may have been born in the Bahamas or who may be political refugees are afforded the opportunity for properly trained interpreters to mount a defence or an appeal under the Organisation of American States or the United Nations treaty refugee status provisions that we have so that their rights are respected.”

On Facebook yesterday, attorney Wayne Munroe echoed Mr Smith’s concerns, saying: “…You don’t require a magistrate to intervene but if you decide to engage that process you need to provide interpreters, consular access and adequate time to consult lawyers. This rush may end up being counter productive.”

Although the law allows people convicted of illegal landing to be fined and/or imprisoned, Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson Pratt discharged the detainees this week rather than imposing a penalty or sentence.

Mr Smith said: “I applaud the sentence imposed by the magistrate as a rational and sensible one in the circumstances. There was no sense in imposing a fine or a sentence of imprisonment and given that all of these persons were taken from vessels a discharge so that they wouldn’t have a criminal conviction and a recommendation of deportation was sensible. This occurrence simply demonstrates a sea change in the government’s approach and that is why I am applauding them. No process is ever perfect and that is why lawyers, prosecutors, defence attorneys, appellate courts exists because there is often a slip. Granted, I was not there. I don’t know exactly what did or did not happen but from the reports that I have seen this is a dramatic difference from the past unconstitutional and illegal behaviour of the Mitchell era. It is also important to point out to all the people who say that giving illegal immigrants their rights under the Constitution would cause an invasion of illegal immigration in the Bahamas that this shows that it does not.“

Comments

stillwaters 4 months ago

"though he said there remains a need to provide migrants with access to legal aid." Jeez.....looking to provide that 'legal aid,' Fred and Wayne?

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DDK 4 months ago

"we also ensure that there are legal aid attorneys from the public defence clinic as well as prosecutors available" I THINK the QC is advocating use of The People's purse, unless he offers HIS pro bono service.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Ma Comrade King's Counsel and Da Judge sees the light justice must be transparently seen be done by not sending detained people back they homeland without giving them a chance to be heard in court - that undocumented immigrants should not be saddled criminal records.The King was smart appoint Freddy as his locally based island KC. In soon coming year or two Comrade "Common Legal Sense" Chief Magistrate Joyann, for Chief Justice reign over islands colony Bahamaland.

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bluesky 4 months ago

What happened to the captain of the boat?

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TalRussell 4 months ago

250 Comrade undocumented migrants are still aloof in bushes Coral Harbour since November 2017 from aboard the sloop discovered beached right under nose Navalman's and Navalwomans Commodore at the Royal Bahamaland's Naval Base? {No making this up how sloop cruised right pass Commodore to slides up beach taking their sweet time lands they's passengers}.

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stillwaters 4 months ago

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2015/d... Fred Mitchell and Fred Smith had battles over this problem too.

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TheMadHatter 4 months ago

Dont send magistrates to islands where they are apprehended!!!! Send all apprehended to Inagua, even if caught in Nassau, Freeport, or Abaco. Send the magistrate to Inagua every time. Even if caught at the North Pole disguised as elves.

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John 4 months ago

‘ And the fourth generation of the descendants of slaves shall leave that strange country with great substance.’ So there were the baby’ boomers, generation X, Generation Y and now generation Z’. Will the Z generation return and enrich their forefathers in their own land? No more illegal immigration, no more lives lost a sea...and then the nation that enslaved them shall be judged.

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OldFort2012 4 months ago

...and now you have it. It's all about legal aid. Give them legal aid...which means give ME some money. What a buffoon.

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TigerB 4 months ago

This is a start, I hope they can now build a detention center there, staffed with marines or immigration officers and keep all that immigration traffic out of Nassau, Inagua is big enough to house such a facility. That will work fine for Cubans and other to be held until they are sent back home. Its much closer to Cuba and Haiti than Nassau is.

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licks2 4 months ago

He is happy because his end has come. . .was telling him long time that he was "chopping off" his nose to spite his face. . .now his nose een gat no nose, eyes, ears. . .only one big mouth! That een his main thing. . .he want the ones who are already here to slip through!

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John 4 months ago

So why did God wait four generations to reward the victims of slavery and to punish the nation that enslaved them? Two fundamental reasons:

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John 4 months ago

God said no slaves shall be a part of that mass exodus out of that strange land. Freed slaves shall live to a ripe old age, and shall die and be buried at peace in that strange land. And besides....in case you have forgotten...

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John 4 months ago

Do you know that after slavery was abolished both the USA and Britain established colonies in Africa and attempted to return freed slaves? Do you know what France conspiring with other countries did to Haiti?

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licks2 4 months ago

The Americans gave Liberia to freed American slave who "grouped and petition" for return to Africa. . .Britain never attempted to deport anyone from their colonies. As for Haiti. . .the Haitians "took" their French owners land by force. . .land that the Haitians met their free hold when they were carried as slaves. . .and the colonial powers combined and made the new Haitian republic. . .since since she called herself a free nation...pay the France for the land they took from them!!
The Jews "looted" the Egyptians and went to their own land. . .land that others were sitting on. . .drove them out. . .but never took a speck of dust from the Egyptians!!

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John 4 months ago

God allows it to go to four generations to show you they did not only hate you as a slave, but they hated and despised you more as a free man. ‘For they have not finished their afflictions upon you that will justify the punishment I will put on them.’ In the 1960’s after slavery Black persons in this country could not go into hotels or movies theaters or restaurants. Even today there is a part of the Bahamas where Blacks cannot be after nightfall. In the US they were being attacked with police dogs and fire hoses, men were falsely being accused of raped and then being lynched, women raped with no justice. Rennet the Tuskegee experiment or the raid and bombing in Tulsa? And the police killings after killing? Remember when Bill Clinton was president and what was proposed to be done to Bahamians? Or maybe you forgot or never knew about it. Maybe that’s the reason they don’t want Young Bahamians men on the beaches and call them scum and subhumans and rapists. But it is judgment time now. Where you gonna run to? Where u gonna hide?

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