New year verdict
High Court Judge Margaret Reifer will announce her decision in the Raul Garcia detention matter when the court sits again early next year.
At the end of submissions from the State attorney, Donna Brathwaite, this afternoon and defence lawyer, David Comissiong on Wednesday, Justice Reifer promised to return an oral and written ruling as soon as was reasonably possible when the Supreme Court resumes from its Christmas recess next month.
In thanking both sides for the quality of their arguments, the judge told them that due to the extent and complexity of the submissions, some time would be spent on them, but that she would give immediate and careful consideration to the all the issues before her.
The court is being asked by Garcia’s lawyer to release the Cuba-born ex-drug convict from nearly three years in detention, especially seeing he had already served his 20 year jail sentence at Her Majesty’s Prison, at Dodds, in St. Philip for trafficking over 400 pounds of cocaine in Barbados.
The defence has therefore urged the court to find that such detention was unlawful and a breach of his client’s Constitutional right to personal liberty. However, in wrapping up her argument this afternoon, Government’s lawyer told the court they had evidence that Garcia posed a threat to national security and public order, if he was set free, pending deportation.
She suggested that even if the court were to make “an unlikely” finding that the immigration authorities could not remove or deport the claimant within a reasonable period, the immigration officials had established, through the written evidence of local INTERPOL Administrator and police Inspector David Welch and Emmerson Shepherd, that the ex-convict’s continued detention could be deemed necessary on the grounds of national security and public order.
“As such, his continued detention ought not to be deemed unlawful by the court,” the attorney asserted.
She also submitted that, on the basis of Garcia’s past criminal record in the US and Barbados, “there may well be a high probability of re-offending when he no longer was in a controlled environment”.
Brathwaite urged the court to consider that the public good must outweigh any right of the claimant to liberty at this stage, and that the continued detention was necessary on grounds of national security and public order.
The legal counsel also asked the court to reject Garcia’s proposal to take up an offer from a family in St. John to reside with them. Her rationale for this position was that one of them was 83 years old and the other middle age, in addition to the fact, that a person related to that family was charged with a number of serious crimes including assault and kidnapping.
The State attorney also address the issue of his possible deportation to a third country other than his homeland, Cuba. She informed the court that the UN Commission for Refugees may soon conclude arrangements to interview Garcia with regards to his repatriation to a third country and that negotiations were in progress with the Cuban Government for his likely deportation there, even with its new policies in place.
Responding to Brathwaite, Comissiong noted that, like the judge, he wanted to know how come Garcia was deemed a threat to national security and there were many others who had committed similar crimes and were not so described. Comissiong suggested that to say a person was a threat to national security was a grave charge that required specific evidence and not a general reference his past criminal record.
He said the only person he recalled being considered a threat to national security was one Sydney Burnett Alleyne, who, in the 1970s, hatched a plot to overthrow the then government.
The defence lawyer said he also thought it was unfair to Garcia, for the State lawyer to try to deny him an opportunity to reside at a private residence just because a relative of the family had been involved in crime at some point.
He reiterated his earlier contention that if Garcia was such a threat to national security, why would the prison authorities allowed him to go to the Prime Minister’s residence to sit among Barbadians and to receive a NIFCA award from the minister of culture and to go other places in the community. (EJ)††