Appeals court rules it was not “competent” for lower court to revise drug sentence

Appeals court rules it was not “competent” for lower court to revise drug sentence

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The appellate court yesterday advised magistrates that once they have convicted and sentenced a defendant, they may no longer exercise jurisdiction over the defendant in the same case and the matter must go before a superior court.

The statement came in a judgment concerning Stanley Adam Pratt’s appeal of his July 2019 conviction for drugs with intent to supply.

He was originally convicted and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and fined $2,000.

Pratt appealed the decision on July 15, 2019, on the basis that the conviction was “unduly severe”.

However, the following day, the magistrate vacated the earlier sentence and imposed a fine of $5,000 or one year’s imprisonment if the amount was not paid.

Court of Appeal Justices Sir Michael Barnett, Jon Isaacs and Roy Jones ruled on the matter.

The court said while not necessary for the determination of the appeal, it did not wish to conclude the judgment without reiterating its advice to magistrates, namely that their jurisdiction to perform their functions are entirely statutory.

“Thus, they must conform to those statutes that touch and concern the cases before them,” the justices said.

“They ought also to be aware that once a magistrate has convicted and sentenced a defendant, the magistrate becomes functus officio and may no longer exercise jurisdiction over the defendant in the same case.

“Thus, it was not competent for the magistrate to vacate his sentence.

“Any adjustment to the sentence he imposed can only be done on appeal or review of that sentence by a court of superior jurisdiction.”

They added: “In the future, magistrates should be aware of the limits of their jurisdiction and govern themselves accordingly.”

On the appeal, the appellate court indicated that Pratt filed a notice of abandonment of the appeal five days before the appeals hearing.

It said Pratt was never in custody and the $5,000 fine imposed by the purported second sentence was paid.

The appellate court also noted Pratt was no longer in The Bahamas.

It said while it received his notice, it had to address a matter that had been disclosed by the magistrate’s record, namely the purported vacating of the prior sentence.

It said the appeal having been abandoned, the convicton for the offense of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply and the sentence and fine “are left undisturbed”.

“It remains a matter for the state as to what course of action they will take in view of our decision, but if the utterances of Mr [Neil] Brathwaite (deputy director of public prosecutions and counsel for the respondent — the attorney general) during the hearing before us is any indication, namely that it would be unjust to impost the original sentence where the appellant has paid the $5,000, implementation of the proper sentence is unlikely.”

As it relates to the effect of the notice of the abandonment, the court said: “The appeal to this court was against the decision of the magistrate made on 12 July, 2019. This means that the appeal against the sentence imposed by the magistrate has ended in the failure of the appellant to have that sentence overturned; the ultimate result being that the sentence is extant, and the appellant subject to it.”

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