ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- The Grenada Bar Association (GBA) is seeking a review of the performance of a local judge and his possible removal from the bench.
Magistrate Jerry Seales
Magistrate Jerry Seales is being accused of “abuse of power” and GBA president Ruggles Ferguson says, “This must stop.”
Seales has been a magistrate for several years and has presided at various local jurisdictions, including the traffic court in the capital, St George’s.
His conduct as a magistrate and the GBA’s action have become topics of public debate and divisions in Grenada.
Many farmers, for example, have applauded Seales for often ordering flogging for lawbreakers convicted of praedial larceny.
But public transit operators, accused of traffic offences, recently protested after complaining of excessive punishment meted out by Seales who, among other things, ordered convicted drivers to pay hefty fines immediately at court or be sent to jail.
Grenada Bar Association President Ruggles Ferguson
Ferguson, who is also president of the OECS Bar Association, wants the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) to “rethink” the appointment of Seales, saying the magistrate is guilty of “missteps” in not applying the law properly, and of making “irrational decisions”.
“I do feel strongly that this magistrate is not a fit and proper person to be sitting on the bench,” said Ferguson, who is one of Grenada’s most prominent attorneys. “He happens to sit in a seat of power and he chooses to abuse that power.”
Seales has not commented publicly on the allegations against him.
However, Ferguson said a document is being prepared and will be sent to the JLSC, outlining the GBA’s complaint against Seales.
“The Judicial and Legal Services Commission has the ultimate authority to recommend to the governor general a magistrate’s removal from office,” Ferguson said.
One Grenada newspaper, Caribupdate Weekly, agrees that should Seales be found guilty of legal abuse, “he should be disqualified from serving as a magistrate”.
However, the paper believes there are bigger issues that ought to be addressed by the government.
The issues, according to the newspaper, include the need for an overhaul of “old colonial and slave laws” that permit “injustice to be unleashed on our citizenry”.
“We must ask why, in 2014, so many archaic laws are still on the books. And ask, too, where are the voices of the churches and groups like the Grenada National Organization of Women – usually vocal in opposition to abuse – when state-sanctioned violence is routinely inflicted on those who are black and poor, and who are sent to police stations to be beaten about their bodies by RGPF officers,” Caribupdate said in an editorial.
“Yet, Seales – and other magistrates too – never order the same punishment for lawbreakers of any other race, colour, ethnicity or socio-economic background.”