St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has expressed disappointment with a recent court ruling involving St. Lucian born Attorney-at-Law Tamara Gibson-Marks, who is accused of stealing and abusing her office as registrar of the High Court of SVG.
I-Witness News said Eustace described the penalty handed down to Gibson-Marks as “scandalous”. He made this statement on a radio programme yesterday.
Gibson-Marks was fined EC$10,500 after pleading guilty to a charge of theft of EC$21,925 and abuse of her authority as registrar of the High Court.
Magistrate Carla James last Tuesday fined Gibson-Marks EC$4,500 to be paid in one month or three months imprisonment on the theft charge. On the abuse of authority charge, Gibson-Marks was ordered to pay EC$6,000 in three months or spend six months in jail.
Eustace was quoted as saying, “I think the whole issue of the registrar has left a very bitter taste in the mouth of Vincentians and in the minds of many Vincentians.”
The SVG politician said “people believe we have two systems of justice: one for those who we figure are important, another one for those who we figure are poor and unimportant”.
“This decision of the court, even the charges that were laid, to my mind are lacking, and the decision taken, as far as that is concerned, for me is scandalous,” Eustace said.
Eustace is also of the opinion that the outcome of the case “sends a very wrong message to the population of SVG, and it sends a wrong message to the young people of SVG, who, for crimes of much lesser importance and gravity, we find many of our youngsters in jail.”
The SVG opposition leader made it clear that the message from this particular issue “is not a good one at all. And it will have repercussions further down the road.”
He said people are going to point to decisions like these and question the role of the court.
“It lessens the court in people’s eyes, because they expect justice and they don’t see this as justice, because lesser crimes have taken place with more severe punishment.”
Eustace said this action should not be tolerated in SVG. “We can’t have two sets of rules, or what it seems like to the general public that people are being threated differently because of their status in society. We can’t have that.”
“We don’t want our people to grow up thinking that is what we are doing, but that is what it appears to be. And in fact, that is what it is. And while we talk about crime and so on in our society and so forth, and what we need to do about this issue here, people put their hands up in the air. Where are we going?” Eustace said.
Gibson-Marks was asked to resign in May, and an investigation was later launched into her conduct as registrar of the High Court. She had pleaded not guilty to all three charges when she initially appeared in court on Aug. 21. Gibson-Marks was also accused of attempting to flee the island.
Gibson-Marks had repaid over $300,000 that had been withdrawn from an account she held in trust at the St. Vincent Cooperative Bank. She was not charged in relation to the EC$300,000.
SVG’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams, discontinued a false certification charge against Gibson-Marks after she pleaded guilty two weeks ago to the theft and abuse of power charge.
Ahead of the sentencing last week, defence attorney Alberton Richelieu submitted to the court documents providing that Gibson-Marks had repaid a total of EC$21,925.
Gibson-Marks is married to Vincentian lawyer, former Unity Labour Party senator, Ronald Marks.