Jus­tice de­layed

A Hamil­ton man re­mains in St. Lucia await­ing sen­tenc­ing for his role in the drown­ing death of a four-year-old boy

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MOLLY HAYES Trial

CAS­TRIES, ST. LUCIA — Jus­tice takes time in St. Lucia. If not today, then to­mor­row. Or maybe next week.

Sa­hab Jamshidi, a 35-year-old Hamil­ton man and med­i­cal school grad­u­ate, is still wait­ing to be sen­tenced for gross neg­li­gence caus­ing death for his role in the drown­ing death of a fouryear-old boy two years ago. Yes­ter­day — two weeks af­ter en­ter­ing a guilty plea in the case — the An­caster res­i­dent was to re­ceive his sen­tence, only to have the for­mal­ity put off un­til next week.

On Fri­day morning, Jamshidi ar­rived with his le­gal team at the Ny­erah Court­house in Cas­tries, the High Court’s tem­po­rary lo­ca­tion in the is­land’s bustling cap­i­tal. His fa­ther and two friends were also there, hav­ing flown in from Canada for sup­port. The lot of them, dressed in suits, chat­ted ner­vously on the con­crete steps out­side as they waited to be called to the sin­gle up­stairs court­room.

But in the end, the ap­pear­ance was brief. Nei­ther Jamshidi’s de­fence team nor the pros­e­cu­tion had writ­ten sub­mis­sions pre­pared, and so the sen­tenc­ing was ad­journed un­til next week when they can be de­liv­ered.

And un­til then, Jamshidi’s bail con­di­tions, or­der­ing him to stay on the is­land, re­main in ef­fect.

TJ Eli­box, 4, died in Fe­bru­ary 2015. He’d been at

Bois Shadon Beach in Vieux Fort, on the south side of the Caribbean is­land, with his ma­ter­nal grand­mother and her church group for a pic­nic. It was here — be­ing babysat by a teenager while his grand­mother cleaned fish — that he ended up in the choppy waters of the At­lantic Ocean. His small body washed ashore a few days later.

The church group al­leged Jamshidi — who was also at the beach that day kitesurf­ing with friends for his birth­day — had taken the child out for a ride and dropped him. But Jamshidi in­sisted he first spot­ted the boy from his board out in the wa­ter and called for help, even co-or­di­nat­ing a search party on the beach.

He was ar­rested and charged.

A noted flaw in the case from the be­gin­ning was a lack of in­de­pen­dent wit­nesses at the beach. The grand­mother had been clean­ing fish more than 30 me­tres away and ad­mit­ted she did not see the small boy go­ing into the wa­ter — es­corted or not.

Royal St. Lucia Po­lice of­fi­cers ac­knowl­edged at the time of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the spring of 2015 they were re­ly­ing on state­ments from mem­bers of TJ’s grand­mother’s church alone, in­clud­ing the teenager who was babysit­ting him. De­spite pub­lic pleas to tourists who might have seen some­thing, no one came for­ward.

That sum­mer, af­ter sev­eral de­lays, Jamshidi was or­dered in a suf­fi­ciency hear­ing to face trial. In the mean­time, he was or­dered to sur­ren­der his pass­port and stay on the is­land, as per his bail con­di­tions.

Those pro­ceed­ings were also de­layed sev­eral times, in­clud­ing last sum­mer, when the old court­house was shut down be­cause of mould. It is now closed for ren­o­va­tions.

Though the St. Lu­cian jus­tice sys­tem is in­her­ited from the Bri­tish and mir­rors Canada’s in many ways, it moves at its own pace. The right to a speedy trial is a dif­fi­cult feat for an is­land with just two judges. Lo­cal ac­tivists and di­plo­mats have long called for swifter ac­cess to jus­tice.

The coun­try is in a state of po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion, with a new prime min­is­ter sworn in last year. A new di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions also took office last fall, not­ing tack­ling the back­logged High Court would be a pri­or­ity for his de­part­ment.

When Jamshidi’s trial fi­nally be­gan on Jan. 24, he sud­denly changed his plea to “guilty” on just the sec­ond day. It is un­known what led him to change his plea, or whether a deal was reached with the pros­e­cu­tion.

Lawyers in the case have de­clined to com­ment.

Fam­ily friend Stephen Verbeek of­fered a brief state­ment Fri­day on be­half of Jamshidi and his fam­ily but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther un­til af­ter sen­tenc­ing.

“It’s been a long painful process for ev­ery­one in­volved,” Verbeek said. “We are do­ing our best to be re­spect­ful and con­sid­er­ate for all par­ties in­volved.”

TJ’s mother, Jowella Roserie, who was also in court Fri­day, de­clined to speak to the me­dia, say­ing her lawyer had ad­vised her to wait un­til af­ter the sen­tenc­ing. In a re­cent in­ter­view with lo­cal me­dia, the young mother said she was up­set with her mother (TJ’s grand­mother) for not watch­ing the small boy that day — and she be­lieves she should share in the blame for his death, given that she had been re­spon­si­ble for him at the beach.

Royal St. Lucia Po­lice de­ferred all ques­tions about the case Fri­day to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion’s office. He was not avail­able to com­ment.

Jamshidi is ex­pected to be back in court on Feb. 10.

It’s been a long painful process for ev­ery­one in­volved. FRIEND OF SA­HAB JAMSHIDI STEPHEN VERBEEK

Sa­hab Jamshidi, who lives in An­caster, has sen­tenc­ing hear­ing Feb. 10.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.