By FARRAH JOHNSON
A MAN was fined $700 yesterday after claiming he violated the COVID-19 lockdown on Saturday to visit a pastor in search of food for his family.
He was one of five people who appeared before Magistrate Sandradee Gardiner for curfew and lockdown infractions. All of those charged admitted they were aware of the emergency protocols, but did not call the COVID-19 hotline before they left their homes.
Osmond Johnson, 55, was charged after officers found him on Meadow Street around 5.20pm on Saturday May 16. The country was under a weekend lockdown at the time.
Prosecutor Claudette McKenzie told the court that officers on mobile patrol in the Meadow Street area noticed a male walking in that vicinity. When officers approached the man, he identified himself as Osmond Johnson.
Inspector McKenzie said when Johnson was asked why he was outdoors during the lockdown, he could not give a satisfactory answer. As a result, he was taken to the Nassau Street Police Station where he admitted to the offence in an interview with police. During the interview, Johnson also said he went to see Bishop C V Moss when he was approached by the officers, but the bishop wasn’t home.
When given an opportunity to speak during the hearing, Johnson told the magistrate he had left home that afternoon to try and get some food for him and his children. He said his ride dropped him on Hutchinson Street near Bishop Moss’ church to see if he could get a food package, but nobody was there so he decided to walk home.
In response, Magistrate Gardiner asked the defendant why he didn’t purchase food before the weekend lockdown came into effect. She also said since he was an adult he should have been aware of the lockdown and ensured that he had sufficient food in his house.
He pleaded guilty and was fined $700 or two months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Meanwhile, Edward Jones, 22, was charged after officers found him on Cordeaux Avenue around 11pm on May 13. He pleaded guilty to violating the national curfew and was fined $800 or two months in prison. Prosecutor McKenzie said that night, officers on mobile patrol observed a male clad in a blue shirt walking west. When they approached and questioned him, the man, who identified himself as Edward Jones, said he was heading home from his girlfriend’s house. As a result, he was arrested and taken to the Wulff Road Police Station where he admitted to the offence in an interview with police.
During the hearing, Jones told the magistrate that his girlfriend had called him to tell him she was not feeling well. He said he didn’t know whether she had contracted COVID-19 so he left his house to go and check on her. He insisted he only breached the curfew to see if his girlfriend was okay and wasn’t aware that he had to call 311 to get permission to leave his home.
Still, Magistrate Gardiner told him the fact that he didn’t know about the hotline number meant that he chose to be ignorant, since information about the emergency orders have been broadcasted all over the news.
Officers found Gregory Taylor, 30, on the six-legged roundabout around 9.30pm on May 17. He pleaded guilty and was fined $700 or two month at BDCS. Prosecutor Mckenzie said that night, officers on mobile patrol in the John F Kennedy area observed a blue Suzuki Swift driving on the roundabout.
Officers beckoned for the vehicle to stop and questioned the driver who identified himself as Gregory Taylor. He told the officers that he was staying with his sister after he got off from work two days ago and had decided to go home. Sgt McKenzie said a check to see whether Taylor had contacted the COVID-19 hotline to get permission was made, but came back negative. As a result, Taylor was arrested and taken to the Grove Police Station. During an interview with police the next day, he admitted to the offence and was subsequently charged.
During the arraignment, Magistrate Gardiner told the defendant that the emergency orders were put in place to save lives. She also said that the lockdown was implemented in April, so Taylor should have been aware of the restrictions and insisted that people have to take the emergency protocols seriously because the COVID-19 pandemic is a “matter of life and death.”
Dwain Butler, 43, and Allan Poitier, 42, were also charged after police found them on Minnie Street around 5.50pm on May 15. Both of the defendants denied the charge and the matter was adjourned to June 30. In the interim, the men were each granted $2,000 bail with one sureter.