Controversial Magistrate Jerry Seales has suddenly resigned from the Magistracy in the wake of an investigation into his performance by the St. Lucia-based Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) which is the body responsible for hiring top judicial officers in the Eastern Caribbean.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Seales handed in his resignation to the JLSC last week Tuesday, on short notice, bringing an official end to his appointment as a Magistrate in the country and leaving the No. 3 Traffic Court without a sitting Magistrate.
Persons who showed up for cases in the court were given a new date for their matters by the court clerk.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Seales had sent letters to several law firms in the city to inform them that he was quitting the Magistracy.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY on Monday, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Christopher Nelson QC, who spoke on the issue described the move by Seales “as a decision without warning or sufficient notice, so that proper arrangements can be put in place” for someone to replace him at the Traffic Court.
“One would expect that he (Seales) would have advised the authorities so as to not disrupt the court,” DPP Nelson said.
“There seems to have been some haste in his decision to vacate the bench,” Nelson stated, adding that this might be “understandable in light of the disciplinary proceedings being instituted against him” by the JLSC.
According to DPP Nelson, the JLSC would now have to recommend a new Magistrate to the Governor General, who would then make the appointment.
This process he said, should not take longer than about “a week.”
In recent times, Seales has been heavily criticised and ostracised by many, including other members of the legal profession, bus drivers and conductors, as well as other members of the public for the harsh sentences imposed in the Traffic Court and previously at other courts, where he served as the sitting Magistrate.
In November last year, the JLSC launched an investigation into a barrage of complaints levelled against Seales over his conduct and what had been described as an abuse of his authority.
A retired Court of Appeal judge from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago was sent to St. George’s to gather evidence from persons including DPP Nelson, and local attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson, as well as bus drivers and conductors.
The DPP was particularly not satisfied with Seales’ handling of a matter involving a rape case brought by the State against Victoria, St. Mark resident, Curtis Baptiste.
Seales had dismissed the case during the Preliminary stage, in which the late former Attorney-General, Lloyd Noel was representing Baptiste.
The DPP, who was unhappy with the failure of Seales to re-instate the rape case in keeping with a ruling from a higher court told THE NEW TODAY on Monday, that the court would have taken evidence from 4 out of the 6 witnesses in the case against Baptiste when it was aborted.
Nelson said the case can still be completed by another Magistrate if his office decides to proceed with the case.
Seales is said to have maintained that he was no longer the sitting Magistrate in the jurisdiction, when the appeal went in the DPP’s favour and that the new Magistrate should have put back the case on the list.
In commenting on Seales sudden resignation, President of the Grand Anse Bus Owner Association, Roger Telesford told this newspaper on Monday that he was not taken by surprise with the move.
He said: “We knew it had to end sometime…we did what we had to do (complain to the relevant authorities) and we were waiting for something to be done…so we are not surprised that he decided to leave early”.
Telesford stated that the busmen were among the first to publicly speak out in retaliation against Seales for the treatment meted out to them.
“We (bus men) had several files being reviewed by the retired judge, who had expressed disbelief with regards to some of the penalties that (were) handed down to some of the bus drivers and conductors for traffic offences”, he said.
According to him, some of the penalties handed down to bus drivers and conductors for traffic offences included “money on the spot, fines in excess of $1, 500 and $1, 000 and imprisonment.”
Additionally, Telesford said, “some busmen were also at times banned from coming into the Town of St. Goerge and had to stay on the outskirts.
“So, his (Seales) whole action towards the busmen in particular, was really harsh and the retired Court of Appeal judge that reviewed the file couldn’t believe that these kinds of judgments were being handed down for minor traffic offences at the level of the Magistrate’s Court.
It is common knowledge that several bus drivers have in excess of over 100 infringements of the traffic law for the same offence.
However, as it relates to the next Magistrate, who will now be appointed to the Traffic Court, Telesford said: “We don’t expect those kinds of (harsh) penalties for traffic offences.”
The controversial Seales has not made any public pronouncement on his decision to step down as a Magistrate.