A 35-year-old man who was arrested about an hour after he was scheduled to marry a woman while being married to another in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has escaped further immediate jail time.
High Court judge Justice Brian Cottle handed down a suspended jail sentence and a fine on Brent Samuel, who had spent 10 days on remand awaiting his sentence.
Justice Cottle said that the court bore in mind the conditions at the prisons are not pleasant, adding that the remand was so Samuel could have some first-hand experience of those conditions.
“They are not pleasant. The facility is overcrowded,” Justice Cottle said, adding that further overcrowding would reduce the opportunities for rehabilitative intervention for prisoners.
Justice Brian Cottle sentenced Brent Samuel to one year and four months in prison for attempted bigamy.
The judge, however, suspended the sentence for one year, meaning that Samuel would only serve the prison term if he is convicted of an offence within that one year period.
For giving false information to a public servant, Justice Cottle fined Samuel EC$3,000 and gave him until July 31, 2020 to pay the sum or spend three months in prison.
Samuel had pleaded guilty to a charge that on Dec. 8, 2018, at Buccament Bay, with intent to commit the offence of bigamy, he did an act that was more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence.
He further pleaded guilty to a charge that on Nov. 22, 2018, at Kingstown, he did give to Rochelle Nanton, of Cane End, she being employed in the Public Service and assigned to the High Court Office, information in the truth of which he did not believe, namely that he was a bachelor.
The facts of the case, as summarised by the judge are that on Nov. 22, 2018, Samuel applied for a marriage licence, in so doing, declared that he was a bachelor.
The notice of intent to marry was posted at the High Court for the requisite seven days and the licence was issued at the end of that period.
Samuel obtained the license although he knew he was lawfully married.
He and his wife had been estranged for some time.
Samuel’s wife learnt of his intention to go through a second marriage and reported this to the registrar, who notified the police.
Around 9 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2018, the day when Samuel’s second marriage was scheduled to take place, police officers went to the house of the intended bride, where they met her dressed in a white wedding gown.
Other members of the bridal party were also there, dressed for the wedding.
The intended bride told the police that she and Samuel were scheduled to marry an hour later.
The officers went to Buccament Bay, where they met Samuel’s mother and other persons.
Samuel’s mother told the officer she was there for her son’s wedding.
While the police were at Buccament Bay, the marriage officer arrived and confirmed that he had conducted counselling sessions with Samuel and his intended bride.
The minister said Samuel had indicated to him during these counselling sessions that he was single and had no children — both of which were untrue.
The police then went to Samuel’s house, where they met him and a young man, said to be his elder son, who was dressed in white.
Samuel had a knapsack containing a white suit. He told the police he intended to wear the suit to his wedding ceremony that day.
He was arrested and later admitted the offence to the police, telling them that he had intended to ask the minister to delay the registration of the marriage until the after he divorces his first wife.
In arriving at his sentence, the judge noted, Samuel’s age and the fact that he had a previous conviction for dishonestly.
The conviction was 13 year ago and is spent, Justice Cottle said, adding that Samuel pleaded guilty and demonstrated remorse.
The judge noted that Samuel admitted the offence before being arrested and restated the admission during an electronically recorded interview with police after his arrest.
Samuel had gotten married when he was just 19 years old, the judge pointed out.
His wife explained that they were churchgoers, and she felt obligated to “do the right thing” when she got pregnant with their first child.
The couple went their separate ways seven years after the marriage and Samuel maintained his children for about a year after the separation then stopped, leaving this wife to raise the children on her own.
He told his wife on several occasions that he wanted to get a divorce and that he had hired a lawyer to file for a divorce.
However, no petition of divorce was filed and Samuel said getting a divorce was beyond his means.
Justice Cottle said that the preamble to the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says that the nation is founded on Christian beliefs and bigamy is abhorrent.
While the offence is a criminal one, Justice Cottle said, it is not prevalent and the court saw no need to send a general message of deterrence or to emphasise to Samuel the need to refrain from considering repeating his action.
He said that considering Samuel’s age and record, he is a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Samuel faced seven years in prison for attempted bigamy and three years for giving false information to a public servant.