Ruggles Ferguson vs Jerry Seales

THE NEW TODAY has obtained evidence that local attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson had a hand in the investigation mounted by the Judicial & Legal Services Commission (JLSC) into Jerry Seales.

Jerry Seales – stepped down as a Magistrate amidst investigation

This newspaper has obtained the copy of a letter which Ferguson wrote to the Chief Justice of the OECS Court system, Dame Janice Pereira asking her to intervene and remove Seales as a sitting Magistrate in Grenada.

The letter outlined a number of alleged breaches of the law by Seales who was subjected to a one-man inquiry by JLSC into his conduct as a Magistrate.

Weeks after the inquiry was conducted, Seales tendered his resignation from the Magistracy.

Following is the full text of Ferguson’s letter to the OECS Chief Justice:

2nd October 2017

Dear Chief Justice,

Re: His Honour Jerry Seales – Complaint and Request for Investigation

I feel duty-bound as an officer of the court to make a formal complaint against His Honour Jerry Seales, a Magistrate who currently sits in Magistrate’s Court Number 3 in St. George’s (Traffic Court) in Grenada and who continues unabated to openly abuse his power, flagrantly flout the rule of law, and recklessly disregard the fundamental rights of persons who appear before him.

Dame Janice Pereira – the current OECs Chief JusticeA

Over the past several years, Magistrate Seales has been engaging in unlawful and wholly unacceptable conduct in the very face of the Court. Very troubling is the fact that he shows no sign of positive change. In fact, his behaviour is only worsening. He lacks basic courtesy, ignores the law, bursts into fits of seemingly uncontrollable anger in open court, disrespects accused persons and witnesses, disregards lawyers and their submissions, and demonstrates no interest in adhering to basic legal principles.

In short, Magistrate Seales is a law unto himself – and savours every moment of it! He remains wholly preoccupied with his own ego and continues to misuse the power of his judicial office.

Attached are two bundles (Volumes 1 & 2) highlighting just a fraction of the exploits of Magistrates Seales. We have included affidavits and written reports detailing the experiences of several persons who have appeared before him, letters written to the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions highlighting his unlawful conduct, accounts from lawyers appearing before him, and a schedule of ‘forthwith’ sentences imposed by him for traffic offences.

Examples abound of improper behaviour and unlawful, arbitrary conduct on the part of Magistrate Seales including:

(1). Unlawfully imposing ‘forthwith’ fines as a matter of course for persons who plead guilty or are found guilty for simple traffic offences. As a natural consequence, those persons frequently find themselves in filthy cells scrambling to raise money to pay the fines in order to escape going to Richmond Hill Prisons at the end of the day.

Attorney Ruggles Ferguson – called for probe into conduct of the Magistrate

The ‘forthwith’ fines are also designed to effectively take away the right to appeal as victims focus more on getting out of the cell rather than face the expense and hassles of an appeals process during which they may have to endure the indignity of incarceration.

(2). Arbitrarily imposing bail conditions on persons who come before him by way of summons for simple traffic offences and who plead ‘Not Guilty’. These persons also inevitably end up in the filthy cells, despite having come to court in obedience to the summons, not expecting bail conditions to be imposed. It forces them to thereafter quickly seek out persons willing to come forward with cash to stand their bail so as to avoid the journey to Richmond Hill Prisons at the end of the day.

(3). Unjustifiably and arbitrarily varying bail conditions for simple traffic offences where there are no changes in circumstances and even where persons are diligently abiding by the initial conditions set.

(4). Irrationally placing persons, especially those who plead ‘Not Guilty’, on cash bail. Again, accused persons end up in filthy cells, as a consequence of not being able to fulfill the hardship of immediately securing the cash for their bail.

(5). Routinely and unlawfully taking away the driver’s licence of accused persons as a condition of bail. Even in the face of a conviction, the law prevents the arbitrary taking away of a person’s drivers licence. Magistrate Seales takes away – as a bail condition – the driver’s licences of persons facing simple traffic offences.

(6). Routinely and arbitrarily banning accused persons from entering the parish of St. George or other designated areas as another condition of bail in simple summary offences.

(7). Acting way in excess of his jurisdiction. Magistrates Seales even imposes prison sentences where the law does not allow it.

(8). Casting inappropriate and injudicious remarks to accused persons and witnesses who appear before him.

(9). Routinely disregarding the presence of lawyers and displaying no appetite for hearing legal submissions, particularly from young Counsel.

(10). Spitefully punishing accused persons by sending them on remand for no reason other than his disapproval of the legal submissions of their Counsel.

(11). Consistently demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the law and basic legal principles.

(12). Blatantly disrespecting the authority of higher courts. He openly displays his contempt for Judges who grant bail to those he has remanded or who dare interfere with bail conditions that he has set. He is known to often repeat, in open court, the phrase ‘Who bail dem must try dem.”

Regrettably, Chief Justice, I make bold to say that Magistrate Seales is wholly unfit to sit as a judicial officer and due consideration ought to be given to remove him from the Bench without further delay. Failure to act soon will bring the administration of justice into further and further disrepute.

Magistrate Seales’ conduct is simply unbecoming of his office.

Regrettably, many lawyers are afraid to speak up lest they, and their clients become subjects of his personal vendetta. I receive complaints daily from lawyers and members of the public from all walks of life.

In recent weeks, a well-respected senior medical doctor called me on two separate occasions – and actually personally visited my office on one occasion – appealing to me to intervene to stop the injustice taking place before Magistrate Seales. He himself had no matters before the court but became aware of injustices meted out to others, in particular the ‘jailing spree’ of Magistrates Seales for minor offences.

In fact, the misconduct and escapades of Magistrates Seales have placed a great strain on my office. To date, I have brought over fifteen (15) administrative actions against him in the High Court – all in the public interest. Judgments have been secured in the vast majority of them, with the State having to pay damages and costs. Indeed, Magistrates Seales has become a serious burden on taxpayers in the State of Grenada.

I wish to respectfully suggest that an investigation into the conduct of Magistrate Seales will find the actual records from his court to be very instructive. Discussions with the Director of Public of Prosecutions, Attorney-General, Chief Magistrate and President of the Bar may also prove useful.

Chief Justice, this regrettable state of affairs in the Magistrate’s Court No.3 must be addressed urgently. It has already brought the administration of justice into serious disrepute.

Apart from the several affidavits and other documents, I have also provided a summary of some of the complaints.

May I respectfully request that you use your good office to right the wrongs and restore confidence in the justice system.

Yours faithfully,
CIBONEY
CHAMBERS

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