Given chance to apologise, defendant carried on worse the next day
Andre Antonio Chase, 21, was sentenced on Friday to six months imprisonment for contempt of court, the maximum allowed under the Grand Court Law.
Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop imposed the sentence at noon in Chase’s absence because of his behaviour earlier in the day.
She first explained that Chase had been brought before her on Thursday for mention of a pending case. He was abusive to the officers who had him in custody, he refused to stand when directed to do so, he used indecent and abusive language in the face of the court.
Told to stop using bad words in the courtroom, he continued to disrupt proceedings.
Justice McDonald-Bishop said she found his behaviour was calculated to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Nevertheless, she was also mindful that the powers of the court to deal with such behaviour should be exercised sparingly. She did not want to cite Chase for contempt of court.
Therefore, she gave him time overnight for “reasoned reflection”. She suggested he consult with his attorney and heed any advice given.
“I did all this because I believe a person should be given a chance to redeem himself as much as possible,” she said.
The judge did not mention Chase’s comment as he left court – that he was going back to Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward to smoke a big spliff.
On Friday, his conduct was even worse. He uttered indecent language in the face of the court, he used threatening and abusive language to the prison officers who had escorted him to court to such an extent that they had to indicate on the record that they felt threatened.
The judge noted that court could not start at 10am as scheduled because he had refused to behave, despite intervention of the prison guards, police, court marshal and his attorney.
The incidents on both days occurred in Court 5 in Kirk House, which has no separate entrance or exit for defendants in custody.
Chase’s continued course of conduct had to attract some penalty, the judge concluded. Although she had been willing to give him the benefit of an adjournment, he had not taken it. The authority of the court must be respected and its officers must be treated with respect, she said.
The judge wondered whether there was an underlying psychiatric issue. She was advised that a previous judge had ordered an evaluation, but it was inconclusive because Chase failed to cooperate.
She said she suspected that the only reason he did not hit a prison officer was because he was in handcuffs [which she had given permission for]. She noted his stance with the officers, “even up in their faces” in her presence, until he had to be removed.
The judge said she had done all she could do, having found him guilty of contempt and giving him the opportunity to purge his contempt. She imposed a term of six months, the maximum, and made it consecutive to the sentence he was serving.
“He has to learn,” she said. “He disrespected everybody.”