Attorney at Law: Magistrate’s Act needs to be revisited

One of the island’s most outspoken lawyers, Anselm Clouden has once again spoken out against the sentences handed down in the Traffic Court on busmen for traffic violations.
Speaking to reporters at his law office on Lucas Street last week Thursday, Clouden said that certain aspects of the Magistrate’s Act need to be reformed.

Attorney at Law, Anselm Clouden

Attorney at Law, Anselm Clouden

His remarks came against the backdrop of the strike action taken last week by busmen plying the Grand Anse route against the high number of buses on the route and the high percentage of traffic charges against them.

According to Clouden, the busmen have some legitimate concerns and there is need for some kind of mediation between bus operators and the Executive that runs the country.

Clouden stated that the whole issue of governing within the transportation sector needs to be looked into with a view to reforming certain aspects of the law.

“The busmen have legitimate grievances with respect (to) the terminal and the way the terminal is being operated. It was passed in an act and so forth but it may need to be revisited with a view to see(ing) how you can really address complaints from those who work there…”, he said.

Without calling Magistrate Seales by name, Clouden said that the busmen have “legitimate complaints” against the person in charge of the Traffic Court.

The three day strike action by bus men last week saw calls for the removal of Magistrate Jerry Seales, who presides over the Traffic Court in the city.

The busmen believe that they are being treated unfairly by the judicial system while performing an honest day’s work.
Clouden told reporters that a lot of issues need to be addressed as a result of the impasse.

“What needs to be addressed are the grievances and the complaints, what reform is necessary, what amendments to the act that governs the operations of buses on the terminal and everything else, as well as to the rights of the Magistrate. That may need to be amended to as it will curtail certain overreaching powers that in the old days and old times are granted to Magistrates – you need maybe to curtail that and by way of amendment”, he said.
The attorney-at-law referred to some cases that he brought to the Court of Appeal following rulings by Seales and the Justices reprimanded the Magistrate.

“…When you (Magistrate Seales) take a man’s license with a family of four, not withstanding he has transgressed but he ought to be dealt with in the context of the law and within certain sentencing guidelines”, Clouden said.

“You take the means by where a man lives, you take his life and some of these guys have children to send to school like everybody else and they ply their route, that’s their source of income,” he added.

Clouden argued that the court cannot arbitrarily  deny an individual the right to work.

“This complaint (against Seales) was around for years now. This is nothing new…I remember Mr. Ruggles Ferguson, my colleague at the bar, he was then President of the Bar and he complained in his capacity as President…a legitimate complaint…it fell on deaf ears.

“… This is something that has been brewing…and the Court of Appeal has struck down certain decisions with respect to fining someone immediately…there is no such thing in a civilised community and the law doesn’t permit it.

“You can’t say you pay a fine now, you’re taken in handcuffs down to a cell. You didn’t come to court with the amount because you don’t know what the fine is going to be and if a certain time expires and your family in St. Patrick’s can’t raise the money, they send you to Richmond Hill…”.

Clouden was making references to some sentences handed down by Seales in which busmen are required to pay the fines on spot or sent to prison in default.

Police sources told THE NEW TODAY that some bus operators have been caught repeatedly within a 12-hour timeframe violating the law with regards to picking up passengers outside of a designated bus stop.

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