A high court judge in Turks and Caicos Islands on Wednesday rejected an application by special prosecutors and investigators to prevent a former Cabinet minister from traveling to Brazil to visit former Premier Michael Misick in jail for his birthday.
Madame Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale said she saw no reason for the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) to withhold the passport of McAllister “Piper” Hanchell, who will be traveling with a group from the Turks and Caicos Islands this weekend to visit Misick who turns 47 on February 2nd, and who is in jail awaiting extradition to the TCI.
Hanchell’s lawyer Lara Maroof of F Chambers told the court that in keeping with bail conditions set by Chief Magistrate Clifton Warner, her client submitted his itinerary to SIPT on two previous occasions and was allowed to travel freely.
However, she said, when Hanchell sent an itinerary to travel to Brazil from January 31 to February 4th, his request was denied by SIPT who indicated in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that they felt that Hanchell was a flight risk and that he may even seek political asylum in Brazil and not return to the Turks and Caicos Islands. SIPT also said they were concerned that if Hanchell was allowed to go to Brazil he would “collude” with Misick in discussing matters that are presently before the court.
Maroff, who revealed that Hanchell’s appointment to spend six hours with Misick in jail was already approved by the British Consulate in Brazil and prison authorities there, said it was “ridiculous” for SIPT to suggest that Hanchell would want to seek political asylum in Brazil, especially given what Misick is currently experiencing in that country after he was arrested there on December 7th.
Furthermore, she said, if Hanchell wanted to discuss any aspects of pending cases with Misick he could have done so on many occasions via telephone, Skype, email or other means before the former Premier was arrested.
Madame Justice Ramsay-Hale said she did not find any merit in the SIPT’s suggestion that Hanchell was a greater flight risk now than before, simply because he was going to visit Michael Misick.
She noted that he had travelled on two previous occasions and had returned and there was nothing to suggest that he would not return on this occasion. In addition, she said that the bail conditions that were originally set by Hanchell did not contain any non-contact clauses which would have prevented him from interacting with Misick.
“I just can’t see any reason to say no to allowing him to have his passport,” the judge said.
Judge Ramsay-Hale said that bail was set by the court and not by SIPT and that in the final analysis it was up to the court to decide whether bail should be varied and on what terms and conditions.
She said that SIPT does not have exclusive rights to come before the court to make representation for or against bail conditions, adding that this right also extends to defendants, but the court will have the final say.
Source: TCI Sun