By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has quashed the criminal conviction of former Renew Bahamas CEO Michael Cox who had been found guilty last year of working at a local scrapyard without a valid work permit.
Senior Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans fined Mr Cox and his uncle, Maurice Cox, $3,000 each after convicting them of illegally engaging in gainful employment in October 2018.
Attorney Christina Galanos represented Michael Cox at the Court of Appeal.
In its judgment the Court of Appeal wrote: “Having heard the submissions of counsel, we are satisfied that these appeals ought to be allowed on the ground that the learned magistrate erred when she found that the appellant was engaging in gainful occupation.
“There is an obvious dearth of evidence to raise even a prima facie case that the appellants were somehow engaged in gainful occupation. This is a criminal matter and, as in all criminal matters, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the essential elements of the offence are disclosed and are present.
“As indicated, there is not even a prima facie case that either Maurice Cox or Michael Cox were engaging in gainful occupation. What is disclosed is that both men were found at a site which apparently dealt with metals and heavy machinery; that both were dressed in a manner which suggested that they were working. While that is entirely suspicious, it does not rise to the level of proof of engaging in gainful occupation.
“The decision of the magistrate to convict both appellants is quashed, the sentences are set aside, the $3000 fine which appears to have been paid by each appellant, if in fact that is so, these monies are to be returned to the appellants.
“In view of the court’s decision that this is a fundamental error on the part of the magistrate, and in our view a basic error, this decision, as an extemporary decision, will be the decision of the court. We do not intend to write.
“For future reference, those public authorities, when seeking to prosecute for breaches of their particular statutes, ought to confer with those persons more learned in the law, more au fait with the law out of an abundance of caution.”
The Christie Administration contracted Renew Bahamas to remediate the New Providence Landfill in 2014. However, the company’s contract was terminated shortly after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 when it invoked its force majeure clause.