Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pressure grows on Dominica magistrate accused of passing harsh sentences Newsdesk

Local Magistrate Tiyani Behanzin has come in for criticism by Chief Magistrate Evalina Baptiste. For several months now, Behanzin has been harshly criticized by many in Dominica for imposing stiff sentences and sending several young men to prison for relatively minor offences.

magistrate behanzin

Magistrate Benhanzin is congratulated by President of Dominica Nicholas Liverpool (Photo courtesy Sean Douglas.

In an unprecedented move, Chief Magistrate Baptiste openly criticized Behanzin stating that he may be allowing his personal feelings to get in the way of his judgments on the bench.

In September, Legal Affairs Minister Ian Douglas who is also the cousin of Magistrate Behanzin disclosed that the government had asked the St Lucian based Judicial and Legal Services Commission “to come down and do an investigation into the strength and weaknesses of those allegations as the case may be.

You have members of the bar who have expressed certain issues about the sentences that Magistrate Behanzin has handed down and the conduct of certain matters that he has sat on.”

He however denied that Behanzin was being reported for misconduct. “So it is not a matter of we having reported Magistrate Behanzin to the commission, a number of lawyers have written and so we have referred those complaints to the commission so that they can do their own investigations.”

Many believed at the time that the Dominica government was seeking legal cover for any possible repercussions arising out of the magistrate’s rulings. The commission is headed by the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.

The latest comments from the Chief Magistrate will undoubtedly be welcomed by many local lawyers who on numerous occasions have confronted the magistrate in open court, some asking him to recluse himself from certain matters and others often times questioning his interpretation of the law.
More recently, persons brought before the courts are known to have specifically requested that they not appear before magistrate Behanzin.

Just days before the September criminal assizes, there were several reports that police officers were transferring cases of their friends and relatives from Behanzin to other magistrates. The reports prompted Police PRO Claude Weekes to publicly denounce the action of the officers and called for it to stop.

He went on to say that “the public might feel that his sentences are disproportionate, they might feel like this person should have gone to jail, while this person ought not to have gone to jail and the sentences are not fair or not standardized but again like I said its they way that the magistrate sees it or the judge sees it after hearing all of the evidence, then they come to that decision and determination.”

In what many considered to be an outrageous sentence, Clement Edgar was sentenced to six months in prison for the theft of 36 huggie diapers valued at $61.50. It was his first offence.

Damien Scotland of Newton was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for the theft of a car battery costing $250 after pleading guilty.
After pleading guilty to stealing $377.95 worth of groceries from his employer’s restaurant at Woodbridge Bay, Kussy Evans was sentenced to six months in prison.

In June, 23-year-old Leroy Leblanc and 24-year-old Reggie Benjamin of Portsmouth were both sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of theft, battery and possession of an offensive weapon. The two had raided the yacht of a visiting German couple.

Also in June, a Marigot man, Falcon Wallace regretted taking a $200 bicycle for a joy ride after he was sentenced to two years hard labour after pleading guilty to the theft.

In August, George Baron considered himself rather unlucky to appear before Magistrate Behanzin for the theft of a goat. He was slapped with a $3 000 fine or would face a one-year prison sentence. The married father of three had previously told the magistrate that he took the goat because he was owed $150 by the owner.

Epson Stuart got two years in prison with hard labour for the theft of a car stereo after being found guilty of entering into the home of Kendel Rodney and stealing an audio stereo from his bus.

In September, Luford George of Calibishie was fined half a million dollars with a quarter million to be paid immediately or face seven years in prison. In addition, George was also given a suspended fine of EC$138, 000 (US$51,110) which he would have to pay if convicted of a similar offence within a two year period

The son of former Prime Minister Roosevelt Douglas who was born in Canada and converted to the muslim faith was sworn in as a local magistrate in March 2009.

Behanzin, who had not lived in Dominica before serving as magistrate said at his swearing in that he was returning to serve the people of Dominica because this was the right thing to do.

He pointed to the public service of his family members including that of his father, his uncle Mike Douglas who served as a government minister, and his cousin Ian Douglas currently serving as tourism minister.

It is not clear what impact the latest criticism will have on the magistrate or how soon the Judicial Commission will report to government on their findings. In the meantime, magistrate Behanzin continues to sit on the bench striking fear in the hearts of those appearing before him.
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Behanzin reminds me of 'You Follow". The guy should go. This is not justice when you sentence people to prison for stealing a bicycle or baby diapers.

His sentencing is as wrong as those imposed in the 70's when rastas went to prison for stealing coconuts. And now, for a goat? Roosie must be turning in his grave at the injustices!

This is another example of what's wrong in the Paradise....The man must go.
I am concerned that the Chief Magistrate would publicly sensure the Magistrate on these matters. Isn't there another way such as "Approach the Bench"? If he is violating the Law he should be removed or recused or sanctioned in the professionally approved manner. That outburst by Chief Magistrate Baptiste who released Linden Lestrade on bail of 50,000 dollars while Greg Joseph is lying in a hospital in Martinique with shrapnel or pellets or bullets in HIS HEAD; and that allegedly simply on the word of Lestrade's attorney Dyer-Munro; is IRONIC to say the least. We can do better than that in our justice system. OR CAN WE! But the truth be told, everything is going to HELL and HELL FIRE in Dominica -Skerrit, SUCRE
and all! God save our land.
We can now do the name change I suggest Dominica the Wild, Wild West!!! Because it looks like everything is tupsey Turvey in Dominica, law, constitution, morality, academia, truth, justice, spirituality, common sense, don't even talk about reasoning. I don;t know what happened, but most Dominicans suddenly became blind and they turned off the swith on their brains.. Everyone is Hear, no evil, see no evil speak no evil once there is a benefit in the evil for me.
Dominica has gone to the dogs, I wonder what if the Chinese are not killing their brains systematically, and deliberately... Yeah I know sounds like a conspiracy theory, but not very far fetched if you are an avid reader and have read what I have read about what's going on in this world of ours..

Shirley--- Now let the bullets rain!
I think the law of rule and the rule of law should follow here. It seems to me that the magistrate does not understand that judgment must be tempered with mercy.

Maybe he is tryign to prove that he is not sof ton crime and criminals...not sure but at any rate hsi days are numbered as a magistrate in Dominca--With the chief magistate making sucha biold statement--he has lost the verdict and the jury ahs returned witha gulity as charged...Bye Tiyani Behanzin AKA Robert Douglas.....I suppose you tried......
Gosh...this is worse than hanging. Why should you go to jail for $60. This is a misdeamenor not a felony crime. I am not a lawyer, but I know that. Something is very wrong here. This gentleman is not fit for the bench.
This magistrate does not understand the objective of sentencing nonviolent offenders.
It is not like the dark days when it was used as punishment.
Since the revelation that it is really the taxpayers that are punished having to pay room and board for a fellow citizen.
this offender will on his return to society will have very little options than to act in a way that cause them to keep paying for his subsistence. This in many case extend over probably the rest of his life. Sentencing of nonviolent offenders, is suppose to be a deterrent.
It should be done in such a way that it should be at minimal cost to the taxpayers.
That is why suspended sentences are more effective at preserving law, that custodial sentences.
Custodial sentences,creates life-long criminals.
Suspended sentences encourage lawful behavior.
He must be practicing Sharia laws.
it is sad that you are all attacking the Magistrate, if someone is convicted for theft and the Magistrate reads out his previous convictions and sentences him to two years, why is it beinbg presented as a sentence in isolation. The Chief magistrate should be ashamed out her unprofessional self by attacking Behanzin her colleagues. They first remove him from Roseau and she then allows gossip to send complaints about him to the Legal Services Commission. We the people of Dominicva who suffer from these criminals are very happy with him and his judgements, I can now sleep in my bed at night. I can expect to harvest my crops and if I go out, I can now expect to be safe, all thanks to him the criminals have to think straight. The lawyers who are paid large sums of money from drugs dealers, who else do they pay on behalf of their clients- there must be a reason why they are attacking Behanzin!!!! It is the Chief Magistrate that does not know the law!!
The person who wrote this article is bias against Behanzin. Why did you not put the comments that the Magistrate gave in the Chronicle. Why say he never lives in Dominica, when the man grow up right here. Who cares who his father was or his relatives are, he is not currupt like everyone here and that is why you speak about him like that. Hands off you people are just talking on behalf of criminals and are not interested in the country or its people.
there are to sides to this story. either u support criminals for the wrong they do and cant wait to have them back on the streets, or u support the magistrate into giving the criminals their due.
u know what? maybe there should be a criminal sponsor act allowing the criminal light sentencing then sending them to live at the homes of the dominicans who are fighting for them.thats being supportive. let the rapists have a feast of their daughters, the drug dealers feed their sons, and the theives empty their houses. tiyani would gladly send them to jail for them again. this time they will be singing a different song.

keep on supporting the criminals and see how fast they are going to grow

I'm sorry but someone who makes a mistake and takes a few pampers is not a criminal. People make mistakes and today is James tomorrow it might be your relative. Why do you think the police are protecting their relatives?

In the end, the magistrate will make the person more of a criminal. This is not right, this is not justice!!!!!
Well Susan, i was in portsmouth in the square when the Major of portsmouth was bad talking Behanzin about being too hard on criminals. You see he was playing politics! 8 days later two masked men put a loaded modern automatic pistol is his rib cage and took all his money and highjacked his car, a few days leter I heard him say that 'when they hold them, I wish they bring them for Behanzin'- in this case I think Behanzin should send them, if they ever catch them, to another Magistrate, who routinely release and simply fine people for illegal firearms and ammumnition despite there being 17 unsolved murders in the country, almost all committed with illegal firearms. Susan people like you are just full of it.
Wake up the bleeding hearts of Dominica. So we want our island to become lawless? When I grew-up on the island,there was one maybe two murder cases per High Court session, now you have multiple. People stole your stuff at nights, and at that when you were not home. Now your so called non-violent criminal strikes in the broad-daylight and at any time. I was recently told by someone to hold my purse a certain way or I would be robbed. An unheard phrase in my childhood. The little things stolen today are a stepping stone to more hard core theft.The chief magistrate certainly demonstrate to me she has no professionalism. She is probably afraid My Behanzin will get her job, seeing he seems more gutsy than her. Check her record.Instead of being a bunch of bleeding hearts let the man do his job for the good of the Country. As for the Lawyers they are only concerned for their pockets, the more crime the more lawyer fees to line their pockets. Let us all look forward to a crime-free Dominica.
I agree with this last comment, sooner or later those who are saying that the magistrate in doing a bad job or abusing his power will some day ask for him, this country is become a lawless country with crime at it's peak, murder, drugs dealers and etc., the very same way that some Dominicans were against Mr Emanuel(Mano) right now they are demonstrating this same level of dislike to Mr Behanzin, this country need a clean up, I do hope that the pm have this on his agenda (building a new prison or extending the existing one, because it the violence and drug activities continues,he will have to ask his friend Chavez to help him build a new prison on Bird Island, which will be Dominica Alcatraz
Dominican let us all joint together in prayer or whatever it takes to save our nation
Good on the magistrate. It is no good fining theives, they have no money to pay. That's why they steal in the first place. Hard labour is more deserving. Get the non violent criminals to work in the community. For such a god fearing country, the ten commandments seems to have gone out the window.
This is a news report. Many facts are omitted. For example Reggie Benjamin and Leroy Leblanc were given 5 years for raiding a visiting german yacht (battery, theft, possession). These young Dominican men also robbed and battered a British yacht earlier in the year armed with a gun. They have ruined your island's tourist industry, your island is now getting a reputation for violent crime. These young men beat innocent tourists breaking bones and cutting them. God only knows what other crimes they've committed before this. D'you think 5 years in prison is too much? To me it seems a lenient sentence.
Righteousness exaults a nation but sin/crime is a reproach to any people.We Dominicans need to go back to our fist love, the Lord Jesus Christ and follow his teachings. Remember scripture states that,'If a man fail to work, he should not eat". 'Whatsoever you sow that you shall reap". How can our watchdogs and enforcers of the law be criticizing those who remembers the oath they took to make sure that criminals learn from their wrong doings and refrain.
Only Dominicans will complain that a judge is sending thieves, who are the scourge of the earth, to jail. Only Dominicans. This is because many many many Dominicans are thieves too stealing food, fruit, $100, an ipod, cd, a watch, from friends, neighbours, co-workers and even family. So yes you would find it frightening when for your same offenses for which you were not caught, a person sent to jail. Only people who themselves steal will be angry that jail time is sentenced. Listen to yourselves. Condoning theft. Angry that a judge is sentencing thieves to prison. Not only angry but crying for him to be fired. Listen to yourselves.

Theft is theft regardless of the amount. So keep that in mind the next time you steal which inevitably you will because that's what you are - a thief even if it was "just a cd" that you stole from your whoever - you are a thief and I hope its Behanzin you get.
Everything in this country becomes politicized.

In My books, should it be fond out that one has committed the offense, it is all well and good to have him do the time.

While the country's treasury is well in need of money, i do not think that fining someone sends the right message, as they may be of the thinking that they should go out there do shit and then their family will pay.

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