Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Tears flowed down the cheeks of Steve and Karen Bacchus, parents of a 19-year-old student who was charged with arson and four counts of attempted murder during a court hearing yesterday in Portland.
The mother and father wept openly while their son, Romario Bacchus, who allegedly set fire to two rooms on a male dormitory at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) at Passley Gardens on Wednesday, stood in the witness box during a hearing in the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate's Court.
Defence attorney Richard Harris, who pleaded with Justice Marjorie Moisten on behalf of his client, told the court that the student had no intention to cause harm to anyone, and that it was a simple prank which went bad.
According to Harris, the student was constantly being harassed by students, and he was being undermined and discriminated against by the four students who were injured in the fire. The attorney also told the court that his client merely wanted to scare the students and to deter them from ragging him, and to also prevent any further abuse.
"My client is sorry for the harm he has caused," Harris told the court. "Yes, he admitted that he lit the fire, but after realising the danger, he assisted with the fighting of the blaze, and was there helping to remove the four students from the fire. He got the gasolene from a tractor that was on the CASE property. I am requesting that he be released in the custody of his parents, and whatever restrictions are to be imposed, we are willing to work with that."
But Harris' plea did not go down well with the prosecution, who argued that the student's action was deliberate and premeditated, as he skilfully made plans to carry out his acts, with the use of gasolene, which were harmful and dangerous.
The Crown reminded the court that the charges were serious and should not be taken lightly.
Justice Moisten reserved her decision to grant or refuse bail until March 27. She also issued instructions for the student to be fingerprinted, and for him to be remanded until the new court date.
Four students were rushed to hospital on Wednesday after fire gutted two rooms on the male dormitory at CASE's western campus shortly after 2 a.m. Three of the students were treated and released; however, a fourth student is still in hospital and is reportedly suffering from burns to his hands, feet, face and back.