Vincentian/American Luzette King, a well-known social activist in the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on February 11, 2021, appeared before Senior Magistrate Rechanne Browne to which many believed were charges already divulged to the public.
The original charges which King was slapped with are: (1) that on 30 January 2021 at Argyle International Airport (AIA) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines she did enter the state by air and did not present herself in person to the nearest Immigration Officer as required by section 10 (3) of Chapter 114 contrary to section 27(D)
The Immigration (Restriction) Act No. 2 of 1939 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and (2) that on 30 January 2021 at AIA in St. Vincent and the Grenadines she unlawfully failed to declare anything contained in her baggage or anything carried with or to produce in her baggage as required and did impede or is calculated to impede the carrying out of any search for anything liable to forfeiture or detention, seizure or removal, enter the State of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines without notifying the Controller of Customs contrary to section 81(4) and 101(1)(d) of Chapter 422 of the Customs Control and Management Act. No. 14 1999 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, those present would learn that shortly before her appearance King was served two additional charges, which were not relayed to any of her attorneys, namely Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, Ronnia Durham-Balcombe, and Maia Eustace. Neither King nor her attorneys have been given copies of the new charges proffered against her.
The only person to give testimony in the matter was Medical Officer of Health Dr. Roger Duncan, who appeared because he was previously requested by the Attorney for the defense, Mrs. Kay Bacchus-Baptiste. Whether or not Dr. Duncan was required to give evidence on oath was a matter in contention which was raised by Bacchus – Baptiste but was never resolved by Chief Magistrate Browne.
Dr. Duncan revealed to the court that he was aware of the fact that Ms. Luzette King requested an exemption for home quarantine, and according to him he was notified that she was told that there, “was a significant backlog and that her application was yet to be processed.” Dr. Duncan confirmed to the court that Ms. King “arrived in the island before the processing of her application.”
Chief Magistrate Browne indicated to the court that the application was still pending.
Mrs. Kay Bacchus- Baptiste indicated to the court that she was the one who requested the presence of Dr. Duncan.
“On the last occasion, I am the person who requested that Dr. Duncan be present because I wanted to ask him some questions and I would be obliged if I can ask him just a few questions,” she said. Bacchus- Baptise continued:
“My instructions were that she was told that they were looking at her application and that she was never told that there was a backlog. it was after her asking several times that they admitted that they had an application, but she was never told that there was a backlog.”
Bacchus-Baptise also indicated she had asked, via email to the Director of Public Prosecutions, for the Chief Medical Officer to be present also.
The CMO was present at a press conference for the Ministry of Health that was moved up from 2 p.m. to around 11 a.m. The press conference overlapped with King’s hearing.
Mrs. Bacchus- Baptise revealed to the court that during a telephone conversation with the CMO she was told the “opposite” to the testimony relayed by Dr. Duncan.
Bacchus-Baptiste insisted on questioning Dr. Duncan since, according to her, both she and the magistrate had previously agreed that the order signed by Dr. Duncan was insufficient to send Ms. King to the hotel since it was “incomplete” but her requests were denied.
During the exchange between the Chief Magistrate and Bacchus- Baptiste, King informed the court that, “I spoke to a Ms. Simmons and a Mr. Solomon and at no point, either of them tells me that there was a backlog.” King was interrupted by the prosecutor who said, “She not dealing with that, she not dealing with that.” This sentiment was also echoed by Chief Magistrate Browne who informed King, “We are not dealing with that, we are not dealing with that”.
King continued, “That’s fine, that’s fine”, and to inform the court that she believed she was treated, “unfairly” as she was served with a quarantine order without the knowledge of her lawyer “about an hour ago”.
King continued, “I really should not have signed it, but I should have had the benefit of an attorney. A police officer and a nurse came, and it was the nurse who handed it to me which was very strange.”
King then asked, “Why am I having all this strange treatment?”
In an attempt to bring “order” Magistrate Browne indicated that she was dealing with bail. She ordered that Ms. King’s bail conditions remained the same and she must remain at Casa Villas, observing the protocols of the Ministry of Health until her application for exemption is “dealt with.”
At this point, Mrs. Bacchus-Baptiste addressed the court once again and stated, “I am perplexed. When I spoke to the CMO she said to me that the application has been refused. I asked her “What were the grounds for the refusal?”
She could not say.
“I said to her how are you refusing an application and you don’t know what the grounds are? She said it was not granted. I said to her I would like to know on what grounds it was refused and on what grounds you grant an exemption because in the future I would like to know how to advise my clients. Bacchus-Baptiste informed the court that the CMO said that the grounds that she uses for exemption are “persons who suffer from Dementia.” Bacchus Baptiste went on to say that she told the CMO that there must be other grounds but the CMO was unable to give her an answer.
Bacchus-Baptiste then made another request to have the CMO present in court but was told by Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, that that could be “taken up elsewhere”.
The Chief Magistrate reiterated to the court that bail would be kept as is and that the two new charges will be added. She further stated that bail would be for 14 days and if the exemption from the Ministry of Health is granted that would take “precedence” and be entered into the Court record.
Bacchus-Baptiste interjected: “It is very clear to me that this exemption is not being handled transparently because we are getting two conflicting answers.”
The Chief Magistrate then informed Bacchus-Baptiste that, “Issues of this nature are outside my purview”
In an interview after the hearing, Attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste stated, “I am taken aback at what transpired in court today. I am really surprised because I am the one who requested Dr. Duncan to be present so that I could cross-examine him and I use the word cross-examine him. Somehow, he was shielded, he was not put on oath. It’s a sad day for justice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”.
The state’s case against 67-year-old King has been adjourned until March 29th, 2021.