Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Ganja-smoking prisoners choke Bain trial

Published:Thursday | January 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle
Professor Brendan Bain

The frequency with which prisoners smoke ganja in the cell downstairs the Supreme Court building drew sharp criticism yesterday during the testimony of Professor E. Nigel Harris, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), while he was being cross-examined in the case brought by Professor Brendan Bain against the university.

Professor Harris commented on the smell of ganja when asked if men having sex with men was illegal. He said while in the corridor he smelt ganja being smoked and that was illegal.

Justice Lennox Campbell, one of the three judges hearing the case, remarked that it was something which happened with great frequency and he was amazed that it was happening on the building.

steps to mediate

Professor Harris, who was the second witness called by the university, was being questioned by Hugh Small, QC, when he referred to the steps the university took to mediate the circumstances between Professor Brendan Bain and the civil society groups. He said after receiving letters from the interest group, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, he wrote letters outlining Professor Bain's contributions and position, and tried to get the group to accept Bain's expert testimony to a Belizean Court without consequences.

Professor Bain had given an expert report in 2012 on behalf of some churches in a case where a gay man was challenging the buggery laws in Belize. He said in highlighting the work of Professor Bain, he also reaffirmed the university's position against discrimination and stigmatisation in his response to concerns raised by the civil society groups. Professor Harris said he also tried to persuade Professor Bain to make some gesture to ameliorate the anger being expressed. He said at the same time he was not minded to concede to what was being asked of the university. He also sought the intervention of UWI Chancellor Sir George Alleyne, who is a mentor to them, to speak with Professor Bain in relation to helping to work out the difficult situation.

Cross-examined by attorney-at-law Georgia Gibson Henlin, who is representing Professor Bain, the witness said he was not aware of any complaint made about the nature of Professor Bain's teaching.

The UWI terminated Professor Bain's two-year contract in May last year on the grounds that his constituents had lost confidence in his leadership of an HIV/AIDS organisation mandated to reach out to marginalised groups including homosexuals. This stemmed from the expert report he gave in Belize. He is now suing the UWI for breach of contract and defamation.