by JP Schwmon
Luzette King, the Vincentian-American social activist who, on January 30 2021, was deported after she supposedly failed to “present herself to the nearest immigration officer” was acquitted by the Serious Offences Court on Tuesday October 26.
Lawyers acting on her instructions filed a “preliminary objection” even before the Crown, which was represented by Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Tammika Da Silva-McKenzie, could present its case in open Court.
“I raised a preliminary objection in this matter that the whole matter was an abuse of process because the State had wrongfully deported Ms. King without going through due process.
“And having wrongfully deported her, they waited until she came back and they charged her for the same offence that they deported her. So I said that it was an abuse of process and the proceedings should be stayed.
“We gave our submissions, the prosecution defended it; they had to admit that she was detained for breach of the Public Health law but they did not charge her under the Public Health law.
“It is clearly, clearly that this was an abuse of process and this was victimization and that they did this only because of who Ms. King is.
“And I’m grateful that she has been cleared and she now can bring an action against the government for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. I hope she will,” lead counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste told reporters following Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne’s decision on Tuesday.
In addition to the failure “to present her self to the nearest immigration officer” charge, King was also indicted for allegedly failing “to produce her bags to a customs officer as required by customs officials” as well as for allegedly impeding “the carrying out of any search for anything which is liable to search by not presenting her self to the customs officer contrary to Section 1011B of the Customs Control and Management Act”.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne outlined the case as presented by both the defense and the prosecution.
King’s lawyers were adamant that she was being punished twice for the same alleged infraction since she was deported before the charges were brought against her.
Da Silva-McKenzie argued against the defense’s August 3 “application to stay the proceedings before the Court on account of abuse of process.”
According to Chief Magistrate Browne’s notes, “the prosecution’s case is that the defendant was not deported. They assert that the defendant provided no evidence of such and she never presented herself to the immigration authorities for such considerations to arise.”
For Chief Magistrate Browne, the issue at stake was whether or not an abuse of process was evident.
Penalties for two of the allegations with which Luzette King was charged included fines of $5000 or 3 times the value of the goods involved which ever is greater and $10000 or 2 years imprisonment.
Ultimately, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne ruled: “after considering the facts before the Court, the Court grants the application to stay the proceedings before the Court on account of abuse of process…
“The defendant having been barred from clearing Immigrations and Customs, the charges brought against her for contravention of these seems bereft given the facts as outlined in the case, the charges would amount to an abuse of process.
“You’re free to go.”
Following the decision, an emotional Luzette King told reporters: “it’s not often that I can’t find words to express how I feel but that process of going back – I was escorted to the plane by the police and to come back and say that I have to prove I was deported it’s painful.
“I’m not going to say anymore other than to thank the team of lawyers; Kay Bacchus leading and not in order of importance Mia Eustace who is here, Guevara Leacock and Ronnia [Durham-Balcombe] who can’t be here.
“I have to thank them.
“I also have to thank my niece Adrianna [King and my nephew] Kenson [King] who, I believe, put this team together while I was harassed behind doors.
“As Kay has indicated, this matter will not be left. I don’t know who tell these people that Luzette King will lie down and play dead.
“It will not be left.
“So I have nothing else to say until the lawyers come to get and advise me on the steps forward.” King also shared outside of the Serious Offences Court on Tuesday.