Bail bond brouhaha - Canadian on drugs charges skips the island leaving surety facing $350,000 bill
A Corporate Area resident who posted a $350,000 bail bond for a woman arrested on a drug charge is now crying foul after being called on to pay that amount when the woman fled the island with permission from the court to travel abroad.
Donald Virgo says he bailed Simone Nelson, a Canadian who is charged with possession of three and a half pounds of cocaine. She was ordered to surrender her travel documents and report three times weekly to a specified police station.
Nelson reportedly claimed that she was seriously ill and had to undergo surgery in Canada, pushing her lawyer to apply for a variation of her bail conditions to allow her to travel.
The court granted permission for her to travel to Canada for the surgery and Virgo said he signed the relevant document giving his consent.
The accused woman returned to the island but Virgo said he had no idea that a few weeks ago the court granted her permission to travel again to Canada.
He said it was last week that he received a call from the courts office that Nelson absconded and he should attend court.
Virgo went to the courthouse where he was arrested and taken before the court. He said he explained to the resident magistrate that he did not know that the accused was given permission to travel again, therefore, he should not be held liable for her non-attendance.
According to Virgo, the resident magistrate disagreed and pointed out that it was his name that was still on the bail bond as surety. He was ordered to return to the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court this Thursday with the $350,000.
"I don't see where it is justified for me to pay this money because I should have been told of the second permission to travel so I could have a say in the matter," said Virgo.
"I would never have consented for her to go back to Canada a second time," added Virgo.
However, a judge explained that when there are major changes, such as permission to travel abroad, the sureties should be asked by the court if they agree to such variations.
The judge pointed out that if an accused is given permission by the court to go abroad without the surety's consent, then the surety is not liable if the accused absconds.
Some members of the Bar agreed with the judge and argued that there is the need for guidelines to be put in place in regard to this issue, as the surety could challenge the issue before the Full Court.
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels argued that if Virgo was not aware of the variation of the bail conditions, then he should not be held responsible for Nelson's failure to return to the island.
Attorney-at-law Hugh Wild-man also agreed, as he said once the court varied the terms of the bail then Virgo should have been invited to enter into new arrangements and sign to them.
Wildman argued that if Virgo did not sign or consent to the variation, the bond cannot be imposed against him.
He said under administrative law Virgo should have been informed when the bail condition was varied so he could decide if he still wanted to remain as surety.