For the love of your mother

Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey on Wednesday said he hoped the age-old affinity Jamaican men have for their mothers will be reason enough for accused murderer Simeon Sutherland to turn himself in after he absconded en route to his trial, which resulted in his mother, Simone Sutherland, who stood surety for him, being taken into custody.

Sutherland, for whom a manhunt has been triggered, is facing charges of murder and misprision of felony in connection with the stabbing death of former People’s National Party Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield at the politician’s Passley Gardens home in Portland on February 2, 2019.

Sutherland had been granted bail in the sum of $800,000 by the parish court with conditions which included a stop order being placed on him and his travel documents surrendered along with a daily reporting requirement with the police. A curfew order was also in place for him and he was not to be seen in the parish of Portland for the duration of the matter.

The accused, who as part of his bail conditions was residing with his parents, had on Wednesday morning met with his attorney Peter Champagnie, King’s Counsel (KC), and was reportedly en route to the Supreme Court with his parents, where the trial was to begin, when he disappeared after exiting the vehicle.

On Wednesday, the trial judge, in making several orders in respect of Sutherland — who is to be arrested on sight — said, “Jamaican men are alleged to… if there is one thing that they usually treasure, it’s their mother, so maybe the gentleman might consider the circumstances severe for his mother. It is not just a financial penalty, but she may be before the court in circumstances — both mother and father — in the meantime.”

Sutherland’s attorney, who revealed that, based on the discussions that morning, he was “beyond surprised” that his client had made off, said he “had every confidence that he [Sutherland] would have been here at the appointed time”.

Champagnie, whose request to have Sutherland’s mother tell the court what transpired, was denied by the judge, went on to explain that according to her, “the routine would be that they would drop the accused at the entrance of the court and they would move their vehicle to go and park and then come across while he registers at the entrance [of the court]”.

“This morning, what obtained — based on what the surety is saying — is that the routine was the same as before, save and except when they dropped him off at the entrance of the court he did not come inside the courtyard, he went southerly and, as a result of that, they thought it suspicious, drove him down to speak with him, but he made his way,” the attorney told the tribunal.

Champagnie said he had no intention of continuing to represent Sutherland further and sought leave of the court to be released from the arrangement.

“Milord, this is a matter that I would wish to place on record and say that, as defence counsel, we cannot and will not countenance this kind of situation and consequently it is one where I would have to revisit my own representation. These are not part of the terms that were agreed upon in terms of the obligation that was imposed upon him insofar as our contractual relationship was concerned,” Champagnie said, adding that he had given all the assistance he could to help investigators locate Sutherland, “but this is where it stops”.

Justice Pusey, however, denied the attorney that request, stating, “The reason I would not release you at this stage is that it would leave the accused without anybody to speak for them at all. Certainly, the court wouldn’t force you to be involved with the trial, but in relation to the situation at this stage, certainly in terms of your knowledge of the matter and the accused, there still needs to be some representation, so you would not be released at this stage. If there were to be a trial you would certainly not be the person.”

And investigators were on Wednesday ordered by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, KC, to launch a probe into possible attempts to pervert the course of justice in respect of the Sutherlands. The DPP, who had formally asked the court to issue a warrant for Sutherland’s arrest and for his bond to be escheated [meaning the person who stood surety for him will have to ensure that that bond in that sum will be provided or face legal consequences], said the fate of the surety was left to the court to decide. She, however, expressed concern that if Sutherland’s mother was allowed to go, she might, like her son, disappear.

The DPP, in the meantime, said having seen the allegations against the accused, she was aghast that he had been allowed bail.

“This is a very high public interest matter which involves the murder of a Member of Parliament. The allegations are quite serious and I must confess that when I got the file I thought to myself that Mr Sutherland was very, very fortunate to have been allowed bail at the parish court level, given the seriousness and gravity of the allegations which involved some 28 stabs to the body of Mr Bloomfield,” Llewellyn stated.

Justice Pusey, in noting that “the issue of bail is sometimes dealt with differently [as] the court always has to look at the circumstances”, said, “It is circumstances like these that the court usually insists that once the trial starts the persons are kept in custody, and I guess one also has to consider that when the trial is about to start the persons are not influenced by circumstances around them.”

Turning to the controversy swirling around Sutherland’s mother, the judge said, “I would have the surety remain with the court so that the questioning and investigations can be carried out. I am not going to say anything in relation to that. The investigators can determine in terms of whether or not, in these circumstances, charges will be proferred. It’s one thing to say I transported the person; it’s another thing to say whether or not the person was helpful in moving the person away from the court. That is not for the court to decide, that is for the investigative arm to decide. I will merely indicate that she should stay with the court until those investigations are over and that the bond is to be escheated.”

Simone Sutherland, Justice Pusey said, would remain in the custody of the court until “arrangements are made in relation to the bond”. He said those arrangements may not necessarily mean the immediate transfer of the funds.

In the meantime, officials at the island’s sea and airports have been instructed to be on high alert for the accused.

The matter was adjourned to Thursday morning at 10:00.

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