$1.5m bail for Belmont man charged with 2014 murder

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Joel King –

A LITTLE over a month after the Court of Appeal cleared the way for anyone charged with murder to apply for bail, the first application has been granted to a Belmont man charged with a 2014 murder in that district.

Joel King, also called Joel Grimes and Catty, of Rigsby Road, was granted bail of $1.5 million with a surety by High Court Master Nalini Singh on Friday.

King is charged with the April 15, 2014, murder of Nkosi Harricharan at Hermitage Road, Belmont. He was committed to stand trial on August 15, 2017.

In her ruling, Singh said no doubt the offence for which he was charged was serious, but it was only one consideration the court had to look at before deciding if to grant bail.

She said having reviewed all the electronic files as well as the submissions of the prosecution and defence, the State had failed to show why King should remain in custody.

In addition to giving a cash-bail alternative of $750,000, she said if he breached any of the 21 conditions of bail, it will be immediately revoked and he will be taken into custody.

A copy of her order will be sent to the Police Commissioner, the senior officer at the Belmont police station, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Licensing Commissioner and the Chief Immigration Officer.

Newsday understands the State is expected to appeal the decision by Monday.

King was represented by attorney Larry Williams and Toni Roberts. The State was represented by prosecutor Veona Neal-Munroe.

In her ruling, Singh reminded that “the requirements as to bail are merely to secure the attendance of the prisoner at the trial.”

She said the nature and seriousness of an offence cannot determine whether bail should be denied and were just one consideration to be weighed in the balance, and not by themselves, as a ground for refusing bail.

“There is no question that the offence with which the applicant has been charged is a serious one,” she noted, adding, however, that the court was satisfied that “with the imposition of appropriate conditions attached to bail, coupled with the requirement for a surety, it can effectively mitigate the State’s fear that this applicant will fail to surrender to custody.”

Singh also noted the State’s response to the court’s enquires on the possibility of using electronic monitoring equipment. She said the court was prepared to make electronic monitoring a condition of bail after his attorney said he would be willing to be subject to a 24-hour home curfew.

However, Singh was told the State will not support electronic monitoring in this case after discussions were held with the director of that unit. In a recent affidavit, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Gary Joseph, said the unit did not have the proper equipment to monitor a murder accused at this time.

Also as part of her ruling, Master Singh ordered copies of her bail order to be served on the Commissioner of Police, the inspector in charge of the Belmont Police Station, the Chief Immigration Officer, the Chief Licensing Officer, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the defence.

She also referenced the recent Court of Appeal decision in Akilli Charles, which paved the way for anyone accused of murder to apply for bail, in particular the words of Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who delivered the ruling along with Justices of Appeal Mira Dean-Armorer and Malcolm Holdip.

Archie noted,“…while there may be legitimate public policy concerns with respect to a rise in the incidence of violent crime, and the risk to public safety posed by repeat offenders, that must be juxtaposed against the presumption of innocence enjoyed before trial and protected by section 5(f)(1) of the Constitution…If persons on remand who are charged with murder apply for the grant of bail, their applications, like any other, will be given due consideration with such alacrity as is possible given the resources of the courts.”

In her ruling, Singh said, “And so, after reviewing all of the documents in the court’s electronic file in this matter as well as considering the submissions of counsel and performing the balancing exercise between the competing interests of the State and by extension the public at large and the applicant, this court is not persuaded that the applicant, if released on bail, would fail to surrender to custody.”

On February 17, the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 5(1) of the Bail Act of 1994, which previously precluded judicial officers from considering bail for persons accused of murder, was unconstitutional.

On March 3, it lifted a temporary stay which prevented any bail application from being heard. The State has since received the court’s permission to challenge the decision at the Privy Council.

The Appeal Court had held that portions of the Bail Act which restricted anyone from applying for bail for the offence of murder were not reasonably justifiable in a society concerned about the rights and freedoms of the individual.

“The unanimous view of this panel is that, by removing the jurisdiction of High Court Judges to grant bail to persons charged with murder, section 5 has trespassed on a core judicial function,” the court said.

Newsday understands as of last week there were 24 bail for murder applications in Port of Spain, 18 in San Fernando and at least two in Tobago.

Conditions of bail for Joel King

Among the 21 conditions is that King is to report to and sign in at the Belmont police station twice a day, seven days a week, between 6-9 am and 4-5 pm, starting immediately on his release from custody.

He was put on a 6 pm-6 am curfew and if he has to leave for medical attention, he must first notify the Belmont police station of the emergency.

He must present himself when police make compliance checks at his mother’s home at Rigsby Street, where he must live.

He has been ordered to stay away from all state witnesses and have no communication whatsoever with any of them, police or civilian.

He cannot possess a weapon, real or imitation.

He cannot ply a car for hire, whether registered as a taxi or not.

He cannot go to a bar, club, restaurant or anywhere that sells alcohol.

He cannot go to any public building or tent where public dancing, singing, meeting or gathering takes place.

He cannot be found on a plane or ship, airport, seaport, or at a beach or river.

He must hand over his driver’s licence, passport and any other travel permits, visas and such documents to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Justice and may not apply for replacements.

He attend either virtually or in person every court hearing of the matter for which he is out on bail.He has to remain in Trinidad until his case ends.

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