The first trial of a person charged with breaching COVID-19 quarantine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines began, on Tuesday, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, with two witnesses for the prosecution having to be summoned after failing to attend.
The absence of the two witnesses forced Crown Counsel Shakelle Bobb to ask Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett for an adjournment.
Jeyandra Jackson, 24, of Long Piece, Lowmans Windward, is being tried on a charge that on Oct. 27, she contravened an order made by Dr. Roger Duncan, health officer, under section 27(a) of the Public Health Act, requiring her to quarantine herself from other persons.
She had initially pleaded guilty to the charge when she was arraigned at the same court on Nov. 25, but changed her plea to not guilty after disagreeing with the facts and after Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett explained the charge to her.
Jackson did not have a lawyer at her arraignment or when the trial commenced on Monday.
Before the trial began, the senior magistrate asked Jackson if she had a lawyer and she said no.
However, after the first witness for the Crown had testified, lawyer Israel Bruce entered the courtroom and sat at the bar table.
Jackson then told the court that she had asked Bruce to assist her in the matter but she was not sure whether he would attend.
The magistrate told her that he had asked her whether she had a lawyer and he said no.
The first prosecution witness was Dayna Clarke, a staff nurse, who said she was on duty at the Argyle International Airport from 2 p.m. to about 5:30-6 p.m. on Oct. 22, when Jackson arrived aboard an Air Canada flight from Canada.
Clarke said she remembers the defendant as she was “resistant to process of me screening her” for COVID-19, but underwent the screening.
The nurse said that Jackson had a child with her at the time.
Clarke said that after she completed the online form, she issued Jackson with three pieces of documents and advised her of “the process and the documents”.
“The first one I normally give is the court order, a little brochure with the COVID hotline and a list of symptoms of the COVID virus and the third one is an immigration clearance form that I advise that they should keep in their passports to prove to the immigration officer that they had the screening done and they had their PCR test done by a nurse,” Clarke told the court.
Asked about the information that is usually included in the court order, Clarke said:
“It is basically formulated by Dr. Duncan and it revolves around the Public Health Act. It basically states that if a person is exposed to anybody with the coronavirus or exposed in general that with the Public Health Act it is in the best interest that they quarantine for 14 days to avoid the spread”
Clarke said that she told Jackson that it was mandatory for her to quarantine for 14 days.
“I outlined how the 14 days should be, which is five nights at a government approved facility for which she showed me evidence that hers was at Spring Estate. She showed me this evidence via her phone and then I outlined to her that the other nine days would be spent at her home,” the staff nurse told the court.
“I also told her please don’t break quarantine because she can be fined or charged.”
Clarke said she gave Jackson the documents and she took them and left with them.
When cross-examined by Jackson, Clarke told the court that at the end of the screening, she told Jackson that to stay at home for an extra nine days (after the hotel stay).
She denied that the only document she gave to Jackson was the card with the COVID-19 hotline information, telling her to contact the number should she develop symptoms.
Clarke said she did not give Jackson a white sheet of paper to sign and that Jackson signed it and handed back the document to her.
“The court order — I believe that is what you are speaking about. Passengers do not sign it,” Clarke told the court.
“It is constructed in a way that we will fill their names in the blank space,” the nurse said.
“What is the paper you handed back to me to sign?” Jackson asked the nurse.
“She didn’t sign it. I never gave her a paper to sign,” the staff nurse said.
The prosecutor then called two other witnesses, none of whom had attended the hearing.
Bobb then told the court that one of the witnesses is one of Jackson’s relatives and said that the prosecution was of the view that that witness would not attend court willingly.
She asked the court to summon that witness as well as the other one who did not appear in court.
Bobb then requested an adjournment, which the magistrate granted, setting next Tuesday, Dec. 8 for the contribution of the trial.
After the adjournment was granted, Bruce rose and told the court that Jackson had spoken to him about the case.
The magistrate, however, told counsel that an important witness for the Crown had already testified, adding that the defence may request that the witness be recalled.
Bruce requested the notes of Clarke’s testimony, but the senior magistrate said he could get it through disclosure, if such an application is made.
Bruce requested disclosure of the witness’ statement and general disclosure.
He also entered himself on the record as Jackson’s counsel.