Court mulls over using offenders to clean-up areas affected by volcano

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Ash-covered road and homes in Owia on April 21, 2021. Some offenders could find themselves performing clean-up duties in the Red Zone. (iWN/CMC photo)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A senior magistrate has suggested that some offenders be ordered to perform clean-up duties in the Red Zone, when it is safe to do so, as part of their sentence.

The Red Zone was established following the explosive eruption of the La Soufriere volcano on April 9, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people into shelters and other accommodations.

While scientists have said residents in the Orange Zone could be allowed back under government supervision, they have insisted that people stay away from the Red Zone even though the volcano has had minimal scientific activity for several days.

Ash-covered road and homes in Owia on April 21, 2021. Some offenders could find themselves performing clean-up duties in the Red Zone. (iWN/CMC photo)

Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett floated the idea at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court as he mulled over a sentence for a repeat offender.

The court was considering the sentence for Javid Clarke, who had stolen a pair of sunglasses valued at EC$20 (One EC dollar=US 0.37 cents) from a Kingstown retail business on April 28.

“I am thinking about it because sending Javid to prison is sending Javid home,” Burnett said, adding, “honestly, I am thinking of utilizing defendants like him to do community service by helping individuals to get back on their feet, as it were.”

The magistrate asked the prosecutor to address the court on the matter, saying that he plans to speak to someone about it.

However, the prosecutor, Colleen Samuel, told the court that one of the issues is that Clarke has no fixed place of abode.

The magistrate, however, said that he understands that, but the mechanism could be put in place to keep him at a fixed place of abode at the expense of the state and have him “go and do some hard work.

“There is a lot of work to be done, and I am of the view that we could find a way to utilize defendants like him,” Burnett said, adding the court has to be creative.

But Samuel said the clean-up has not started and whether the court could keep him in custody until then. She said it is already hard enough finding places to house persons who are not in the criminal system, adding that the only other place where Clarke could be kept is at the prison or a police station.

Samuel said that she was not making excuses. Still, things are difficult in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the extra duties that police officers have to perform due to the eruption of La Soufriere.

“However, putting this man on the street, he is a completely different person when he is out there, and it would be hard to keep track of Javid when he has the ‘white lady,’ he is a completely different person,” Samuel said.

She said that prison is not helping Javid, but the court had to also think of the people who keep suffering losses due to Clarke’s crimes.

“I don’t want to call him a nuisance because he is an individual,” the senior magistrate commented before ordering that Clarke –who came to court with the EC$20 to pay for the sunglasses — to compensate the virtual complainant for EC$20.

Clarke was further sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for one year.

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