Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett, on Tuesday, opined that a woman who claimed that a man used abusive language to her in Kingstown, pursue the matter in civil court.
The accused man, David Bennett, of Kingstown, was charged that on Dec. 27, 2017 in Kingstown, in a public place, to wit, Kingstown Vegetable Market, he made us of indecent language to Auxiliary Police Constable Norva Laurent, to wit, “woman, way the f*** wrong with all yo, way yo nah open the door”.
He was further charged that at the same date and place, he made use of insulting language to Laurent, to wit, “woman, way you don’t haul you whoring mother c***, yo ah whore about on the streets, way yo nah haul you mother whoring c***”.
Bennett pleaded not guilty to the charges and was due for trial on Tuesday.
But when the matter was called, Burnett, on reviewing the charges, told the prosecution that his position on those types of charges is known.
The jurist noted his position, even as he observed that insulting and indecent language remain on the law books as criminal offences.
The prosecutor, Sergeant of Police Cornelius Tittle, said that while he knows the magistrate’s position, the words that Bennett allegedly used towards Laurent constitute “grave disrespect”.
The magistrate said that while that is true, there is a civil court for those matters.
He read the words upon which the complaint was premised, adding, “And we are going to sit down and try this as a criminal matter?”
The magistrate said he was not commenting on the case but was speaking to himself as if he were not in the room.
However, when the senior magistrate asked how many witnesses were slated to testify in the case, he was told that there were two — both of them police officers.
The magistrate then observed that the case would be the complainant’s word against the defendant’s.
The prosecutor confirmed that the investigating officer was not present when the offence was allegedly committed.
As the matter was about to begin, the magistrate asked the complainant if she knew the defendant.
She said she knows him in the market and knows that he is called “Southy” but doesn’t know his actual name.
The magistrate asked Laurent if she would be satisfied with an apology.
The woman, however, said that it was not the first time that the accused man has been insulting towards her, adding that she never acted on it before.
“But you see the kind of words he used and at the second moment in front of a whole congregation of people in the market. It was disturbing,” she said.
The magistrate then observed that the claimant could have filed a civil action against the man and claim EC$15,000 in the magistrate’s court or an even larger amount in the High Court.
He said that if the complainant wins the case, the most he would do is fine or bond the defendant.
This would do nothing to rectify injuries the woman might have suffered as a result of the defendant’s alleged crimes, the senior magistrate said.
“The point I am making to you is that you can get more appropriate remedy in another court than coming in the magistrate court in its criminal jurisdiction. Because what you really want is that you want your character to be re-established? Not true?” the magistrate said.
He suggested that the woman take a civil suit against the man, but noted that he was not preventing her from going ahead with the criminal matter.
At that point, Tittle told the court that he is minded to take a certain course of action, and withdrew the charges.
The magistrate asked him to advise the woman accordingly.
After a short adjournment unrelated to the case, the magistrate told the court that the decision he has made in the case was not to be interpreted as precedence for how he will treat similar matters.
He said he had advised the claimant to proceed civilly because she is a law enforcement agent.