$100 'mockery' - Judge ridicules Tesha Miller fine; Lawmakers call it shameful
A parish judge yesterday mocked the $100 maximum fine the law allowed her to impose on reputed gang leader Tesha Miller after he pleaded guilty to making a false declaration to Jamaican immigration officials.
Some lawmakers, too, have expressed shock that such a maximum penalty remains on the books, saying it's a "shame", and the "sleeping" Parliament has to do something quickly.
"The paper [the indictment outlining the charges] costs more money than the sentence," said Parish Judge Sancia Burrell before imposing the fine.
Miller, who was deported from The Bahamas on April 4, faced two counts of making a false declaration when he was taken before the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court after 13 days in police custody.
He pleaded not guilty to the first charge - that he allegedly tried to deceive Jamaican authorities in The Bahamas that his name was Marlon Williams - and was freed after prosecutors offered no evidence against him.
FINE DREW LAUGHTER
However, Miller, who is believed to be the leader of the Spanish Town-based Clansman Gang, admitted that on April 4 he made a false declaration to immigration personnel at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston that his name was Marlon Williams.
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, who represented Miller, pointed out in court that his client was charged under the 1945 Immigration Restriction (Commonwealth Citizens) Act and that the offence carries a maximum fine of $100.
"It is in the class of traffic offences in terms of the penalty. There is no charge on the books that is as minute as this," Samuels underscored.
The parish judge echoed his observation, describing the fine as embarrassing. "This is what's on the books. Maybe after today it will jump," Burrell said.
"The fact that you have an offence of this nature ... you put the [computer] systems in place, you put the people [police and immigration personnel] in place, and this is it."
But the $100 fine drew laughter and murmurs from the handful of persons inside the courtroom, some of whom expressed disbelief.
"Write to the persons you voted for and tell them to have a conversation about the fine, but we are not going to discuss it here," the judge admonished as she tried to end the interruption.
Noting that "it is not usually the practice" to impose maximum sentences on people who plead guilty, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte said "we have to agree that a fine of $100 in 2017 makes a mockery of the system".
Speaking to The Gleaner yesterday after a sitting of the House of Representatives, she said, "We, the legislators, will have to update the penalties without delay and we have done so in a number of cases. In fact, we have moved to simplify the process by which monetary penalties are updated."
Ronald Thwaites, the Kingston Central representative, said various arms of government have failed and agreed that the fine has to change, along with any other offence carrying similar penalties.
"I feel ashamed," the opposition spokesman on education said. "It's obvious that we are sleeping and the officials who advise us are sleeping. I support a reform of the legislation which will allow for all penalties to be adjusted according to a fixed proportion usually related to the inflation rate."
According to the information on the justice ministry's website, the Immigration Restriction (Commonwealth Citizens) Act was last amended in 1988.