Published On: Thu, Nov 16th, 2017

Appeals court returns to St. Maarten – seventy days after Hurricane Irma

PHILIPSBURG  – The Common Court of Justice returned for its first session at the courthouse in Philipsburg on Wednesday, exactly seventy days after Hurricane Irma ripped through St. Maarten. It was not a normal court day though, as the judges wanted to know from several defendants how the hurricane had affected their personal circumstances before rendering judgment at a later date.

Among the defendants on the docket were Orlando Tovian G., Cennieke John Ch. and Kendy P. – all three suspects in a string of armed robberies.

Attorney Shaira Bommel asked the court to terminate or suspend the detention of her client Orlando G. who was among the prisoners that were transferred to Curacao from the Pointe Blanche prison over the attorney’s objections. G. could therefore not be present in court yesterday.

“He was not allowed to take anything with him, apart from the prison clothing he was wearing,” Bommel said. “His family is in St. Maarten and family-visits are a fundamental right.

The solicitor-general noted that the Court in First Instance has sentenced G. to 12 years of imprisonment for his role in the robberies and said that it is undesirable to release him at this moment.

“He has a daughter in Jamaica; he could go there and then we will never see him back. There is no extradition treaty with Jamaica.”

The solicitor-general also wondered what would happen if G. was released in Curacao. “Immigration could very well decide to deport him to Jamaica.”

The court ruled that there are still serious objections against G.’s release and it rejected the attorney’s request.

Of the co-defendants in the series of armed robberies, only Cennieke John Ch. appeared in court. Kendy P. has also been transferred from Pointe Blanche to the prison in Curacao.

All this complicates the execution of the defense’s request to hear Kendy P. as a witness in the case of Cennieke Ch. who was arrested on October 25 of last year after a botched armed robbery at Budget Marine.

Attorney Bommel said that the conditions at the Pointe Blanche prion are bad. “There is water in the cells; everything is getting wet and inner walls are threatening to collapse.”

Ch. told the court: “It is unfair that I am in prison for something I did not do.”

The solicitor-general noted that things at the prison are more or less back to normal and that the current circumstances are not a valid reason for terminating or suspending Ch.’s pretrial detention.

The court agreed with this point of view.

The trial against the tree robbers will now take place on December 13. Two days before the trial, Kendy P. and Orlando G. have to be brought back from Curacao to St. Maarten.

Common Court of Justice - 1st session 70 days after Irma 20171115 - HH

Photo caption: The appeals court during its first session at the courthouse after Hurricane Irma. From left solicitor-general Jan Spaans, judges Lewin, De Doelder and Meijer and court registrar Mr. B.G. Scheepbouwer. Photo Hilbert Haar