R v Esparon (C0 54/20) [2016] SCSC 863 (27 October 2016);

IN THE SUPREME  COURT  OF SEYCHELLES
Crimina lSide:     
C054/20

[2016] SCSC 863

 

 

THE   REPUBLIC

versus

SERGE ROLAND ESPARON

 

Heard: Counsel: 24th October  2016

 

Counsel: Mr. Jarayaj  Chinnasamy,   Principal  State Counsel  for the Republic

             Mr. Nichol  Gabriel  for the accused

 

 

 

Delivered:                      27th day of October  2016

 

ORDER

Vidot J

 

 

[1]        The  Accused  stands  charged  with  one  count  of being  found  in unlawful   possession   of a controlled  drug  with  intent  to traffic,  contrary  to Section  9(1) of the Misuse  of Drugs  Act 2016  (MODA),   read  with  Section   19(1)(c)  of the said  Act and  punishable   under  Section 7(1) read with the Second  Schedule  of the Act.

 

[2]       The  Particulars   of  the  Offence  are  that  on  14th day  of  October  2016,  the  Accused  was found at Marie-Jeanne   Estate,  Baie Ste. Anne  Praslin,  trafficking   in a controlled  drug  by virtue  of  having   been  found  in  unlawful   possession   of  diamorphine   (heroin)   having  a total  weight  of  15.5 grams  (with  a purity  of 6.95 grams),  which  gives  rise 10 a rebuttable presumption   of having  possessed  the same  with the intent to traffic.

 

[3J        On  the  24th day  of  October  2016, the  Republic   filed  a Notice  of  Motion   supported   by affidavit   sworn  by  Agent  Aubrey  Labiche  of the  National   Drugs  Enforcement   Agency, (NDEA),  asking  for the remand  of the  Accused  to custody.  The  grounds  upon  which  the application   is being  sought  are laid down  in paragraph   11  of the Affidavit  and which  can be summarised   as follows;

 

i.                Trafficking   is a serious  offence    and  that  the offence  as charged  carries  a minimum    indicative    sentence    of   20   years   and   a   maximum    of   life imprisonment     due  to  the  presence   of  the  aggravating   factor  pursuant  to section  48(e)  of MODA.  The Accused  has a previous  conviction   for drug related  offence;

 

ii.               The  amount  of the  heroin  seized  which  is above  the prescribed   statutory limit of2  grams;

 

iii.             Drug  offences  are  on the  increase  in Seychelles   and  that  it  affects  public order  and morality,  particularly  the youth;

 

iv.                 That  there  are  reasonable   grounds  to  believe  that  if released  on  bail  the Accused    will continue    with   drug   related   activity.   The   Accused    was released  2 month  earlier  for conviction  of a drug offence;

 

v.             That  there  is likelihood  that the Accused  will obstruct  the course  of justice if released  on bail; and

 

 

VI.                   There  are  reasonable   grounds  to  believe  that  the Accused  will  abscond  if released  on bail and thereby  obstruct  the course  of justice.

 

 

[4]        Learned  Counsel  for the Republic  made  lengthy  submission   urging. the Court  to consider all  these  grounds   cumulatively    rather  than  individually.    He  argued   that  under  Article 18(7) of the Constitution,   the court  has ample  power  to remand  a person  if there  are facts that will convince  the court.

 

[5]            Mr.  Gabriel,   Counsel   for  the  Accused   argued  that  in  considering   bail  application   the Court  has  to  balance   the  right  to  liberty  of  the  Accused   person,   the  presumption    of innocence   and  on  the  other  side  the  seriousness   of  the  offence.   He  submitted   that  the averments   made  by  the  Republic  have  not  been  supported   by  any  evidence.   He  argued that the quantity  of drug  seized  is small  and that does not make the offence  one that  is so serious  that would  warrant  the remand  of the Accused  to custody.

 

[6]        Bail  is  constitutional    light  provided   for  under  Article   18( I)  of  the  Constitution.    Bail remains  the rule always  and remand,  the exception.  As held in Esparon   v Republic   SCA 1, 2  and   3  of  2014,  such  right  can  only  be  curtailed   in  exceptional   cases  where  the Prosecution   has satisfied  Court  that  there  are compelling   reasons  in law and on facts  for remanding   the Accused.  Article   18 (7) provides  circumstances   in which  the right  may  be curtailed.   In  the  present   case  only   IS  (7)  (b)  and  (c)  are  relevant.   Section   lS(7)(b) addresses    seriousness    0 f the   offence   and   Section    18(7)( c)  deals   with   grounds   "for believing     that  {he suspect   will fail   to  appear  for   the  trial  or  will  interfere   with  the 'witnesses  or will  otherwise  obstruct  the course  a/justice    or will commit  an offence  while on release  ". The  list  seems  exhaustive   but this  Court  holds  the  view  that  it should  not refuse   to   take   into   account    any   other   grounds    and   material    factors    that   call   for consideration    in  its  assessment    for  remand,   (see  paragraph    11  below).   Nonetheless, Article   18 (7) advocates   for release,  either  conditionally   or upon  reasonable   conditions. That  reinforces  the position  that  remand  should  be granted  in exceptional   cases  only and adopted  as a last resort.  As was pronounced   in Esparon    v Republic   (supra),   in dealing with  bail  application,   the  Court  needs  to ensure  that  "the  principle   is not reversed  in the sense  that bail instead  of jail  becomes jail  instead  of bail".

 

[7}       In placing  emphasis  that  bail should  be the rule and remand,  the exception,  I find support in the  International   Covenant   on  Civil  and  Political   Rights  (ICCPR)   which  Seychelles ratified   in  1992  which   provides   that  "it    shall   not   be  the  general   rule  (hat  persons awaiting   trial shall  be detained   in custody,  but release  may  be subject  10 guarantees   10 appear  at trial".

 

[8]        I have  stated  before  and  I shall  again  repeat  and  insist  that  in making  an application   for remand,   it  does   not  suffice   to  make   mere   and   blank   averments    without   more.   All averments   have  to  be  substantiated    and  supported   by  facts.  The  Prosecution   needs  to come  up  to  proof  on  the  averments.   The  onus  of  satisfying   Court  that  the  rule  of  bail should  be  compromised    in favour  of  remand  rests  on the  Prosecution.   The  standard  of discharging   his burden  is a high one.

 

[9]        In assessing  the  merit  of the Application,   I remind  myself  that  the  Accused  is presumed innocent  until  he is proven  or  has pleaded guilty as provided for under Article 19 (2) (a) of the Constitution.

 

l10]     The Republic, in its 'Submission has implored Court to consider all the grounds being relied on cumulatively rather than individually. I agree with Counsel for the Republic on that but it is necessary that each ground is also evaluated individually to confirm that it has been established.

 

[11]     It  is  trite  and  it  has  been  held  in  Beeharry   v  Republic   (2008-2009)  SCAR   that seriousness of the offence is not a standalone provision. It has to be considered with other grounds of the application. Under paragraph  11(iii) of the Affidavit the Prosecution has averred that drug offences are on the increase and that this has affected public order and morality of the younger generation. I note that this ground does not fall within one of the derogations provided for by Article 18(7) of the Constitution. Nonetheless, this court will be willing to consider this ground if there was real and imminent danger to public interest and order  or  in circumstances  where the rights  of another will be seriously affected should the Accused be released on bail. In fact it was held in Beharry  v Republic  that the right to liberty is subject to the rights of others and the public interest. Unfortunately, the prosecution has not provided this court with any evidence to that effect. It is true to state that the court should not remain oblivious to the fact that Seychelles has a drugs problem but blank averments by the prosecution is not and should not be sufficient; they have to be substantiated. In the least the NDEA have statistics of drugs related offences and none of that has been thrust foreword. The prosecution has not satisfied this court as to the merit of this ground, so it fails.

 

 

 

[12]               Paragraph    11(iv)  of  the  Affidavit   deals  with  the  possibility   of  the  Accused   continuing with  similar  activity  as the offence  levelled  against  him.  Again  there  is no  evidence   in support   of  that   Even   if  that  concern   is  a  real  fear   for  the  prosecution,    would   the imposition   of strict  bail conditions  not be sufficient  to address  that concern?  Article  18(7) as stated  above  places  emphasis   on bail  either  with  conditions   or  unconditionally.    So in presenting   its arguments   in favour  of remand,  the prosecution   cannot  omit to address  the cort as to why  the imposition  of bail conditions   would  not meet the course  of justice  and will not  be sufficient.   Therefore,   the  Republic  has  failed  to satisfy  court  on the merit  of this ground,

 

[13]                           I shall deal with  averments  made under paragraph   11 (v) and (vi) of the  affidavit  attached to thc Notice  of Motion  together.  They  respectively   deal with  likely  obstruction   of justice and  possibility    of  the  Accused   absconding.    Counsel   for   the   prosecution    in  making submissions   on  those  grounds  relied  on matters  that  happened   pre-arrest.   However,   this court believes  that as much  as Accused's   behaviour  pre-arrest   are  pertinent  and necessary for  consideration    that  this  equally   applies  to  the  Accused's    post  arrest  behaviour.   The fears  enumerated    under   these  grounds   should   also  be   substantiated.    The  prosecution needs  to satisfy  court  that imposing  stringent  bail  considerations   would  not alleviate  these fears.  The  Affidavit   makes  no  suggestion   that   when  the  NDEA   agents  approached   the Accused  at his home  and  told him they  were  going  to search  his home  and  his body that he made  attempts   to escape.  Post  arrest,  there  is no evidence  that  the accused  displayed behaviour  that would  suggest  that there existed  a reasonable   probability   that  the Accused will  try  to abscond   if released  on bail.  The  onus  remains   always  on the  prosecution   to satisfy   court  that  imposition   of  bail  conditions   will  not  suppress   that  probability.   The Prosecution   failed  to do that.

 

[14]     As  regards  paragraph    11(v)  of  the  Affidavit,   the  Prosecution   has  argued  that  since  the Accused  had placed  a plastic  containing  heroin  in his mouth  when the NDEA  agents  were searching  his room  as indicative  that he will obstruct  the course  of justice.  This again was pre-arrest,   but  has the Accused  done  anything  post-arrest   that 'would have  reinforced  that tear?  Sometimes   an Accused  will act irrationally   at the time  of arrest but post  arrest  his behaviour  may changed.   It is averred  in paragraph   8 of the Affidavit  that  after arrest,  the Accused  was taken to the Praslin  NDEA  station  and there he gave a confession.   Does that suggest  a person  who  wanted  to obstruct   the course  of justice?   This  Court  believes  not. Furthermore,    the  most   potential   witnesses   are  police   officers.   The   likelihood   of  the Accused   interfering   with  Police  officers  is rather  remote  and  furthermore,   I believe  that strict  bail conditions   can manage  that  fear.

 

[15]      Paragraph   11(i) and  (ii) of the Affidavit,   the Prosecution   relies  on the seriousness   of the offence  and  the  amount   of drugs  seized.  These  shall  be treated  together.   Above  I have already    mentioned    that   seriousness    of   the   offence    is  not   a  standalone    provision. Therefore,    if  the  Prosecution    has  not  satisfied   court  on  the  other  grounds   these   two subparagraphs    cannot  be  treated  on  their  own.  All  the  grounds  have  to be  treated  as  a whole.  However.   I shall  give  considerations   as to the averments   of aggravated   factor  as regards  the offence  as per Section  48(e)  of MODA.  The issue of aggravated  factor  will be pertinent   as  far  as  sentence   is  concerned.     1 also  note  that  the  offence   is  a  serious  in nature,  but at the  same  time  the amount  of drugs  seized,  which  is rather  minimal,  has to be taken into consideration   in making  a determination.

 

[161    Therefore,   based  on the above,  I find that  the  Prosecution   has not satisfied  Court  in law and  on  facts  that  there  are  compelling   reasons   to  remand  the  Accused   to  custody  but nonetheless   the  Court  believes  that  his  release  should  be  subject  to  the  most  stringent conditions.   In particular  the Court  takes into account  the nature  of the offence  and the fact that     drug  seized   is a class  A  drug.The   Accused   is therefore   released   on  the  following conditions;

 

 

i.                The Accused  shall pay into Court  a cash bail ofSR70,OOOI- with 2 sureties to  be approved   by  Court  who  shall  each  sign  a  bond  of  SR50,OOOI-,   in order  to secure  his attendance  of the  Accused  before  Court each time  that he is requested  to do so;

 

ii.            The  Accused  shall  not  leave  the  Republic  until  the  final  determination   of this  case  and  to  that  end  shall  forthwith,   and  before  his  release  on  bail, surrender   his  passport   and  all  travel  documents   to  the  Registrar   of  the Supreme  Court  of Seychelles  and the Immigration   Authorities   are directed not issue any travelling  documents  to the Accused;

 

III.          The  Accused   shall  report  to the  Baie  Ste.  Anne,  Praslin  Police  Station  3 times  per week,  particularly   on Monday,  Wednesday   and Friday;

 

IV.                   The Accused  shall not travel  to any other  islands  in Seychelles,   save Mahe and Praslin;

 

 

V.                The Accused  shall  without  fail present  himself before    Court  each time  that this case is called;

 

VI.                   The Accused  shall not whilst  on bail commit  any other offence;

 

 

VII.                   The  Accused   shall  not  threaten  any  Police  office  nor  interfere   with  the investigation   of this  case  and  shall  not commit  any  act that  shall  interfere with the course  of justice  in this case;

 

VlIl.              The Accused  shall not while  on bail commit  any other offence;

 

 

ix.             The Accused  shall not leave his home  between  the hours  of 7 p.m and 5 a.m until the completion   of this case.

 

 

 

 

Signed,  dated  and delivered  at Ile du Port on 27th day of October  2016

 

 

M Vidot

Judge  of the Supreme  Court