Tensions were high in the Roseau Magistrate court as Dr. Thomson Fontaine’s four day “conditional bail” came to an end and his lawyers sought further release. In the end, though bail was again granted, the day’s proceeding was not without contention.
Dr. Fontaine was on April 23, 2022, arrested at the Douglas Charles airport on arrival in Dominica, on a bench warrant issued by Magistrate Asquith Riviere on November 22, 2018, following his failure to appear at two court hearings.
Fontaine’s arrest stemmed from an incident which dates back to February 7, 2017. On that day, the parliamentary opposition United Workers Party (UWP) held a meeting on Kennedy Avenue in Roseau calling for the resignation of Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit following which several businesses were vandalized in the capital city. Several opposition members were subsequently charged with inciting violence and obstructing justice.
Following his arrest over the weekend, Fontaine and his legal team which includes attorneys-at-law Julien Prevost, Gildon Richards, Cara Shillingford-Marsh, Ronald Charles and Elue Charles, appeared in court on April 25, 2022, where he was granted “conditional bail” until April 29, 2022.
Presiding Magistrate, Michael Laudat, explained that it was in the public’s interest to grant Dr. Fontaine bail, however; he said the defense had failed to present all required documents from the surety to the court. Laudat therefore ordered the defendant to surrender to the court after four days by which time he said, Fontane’s bail would expire.
At the formal bail application hearing on the morning of April 29, Dr. Fontaine’s surety, former Chief Magistrate Gail Royer, underwent a means and control test by attorney Prevost.
Under cross-examination by the acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalyrmple, Royer said prior to March 25, 2022, she did not recall the last time she had seen Dr. Fontaine and she and the defendant did not speak regularly.
Defense attorney Richards, who was also in court, then attempted to re-examine the surety on her use of the word “regularly” for the court’s record but Magistrate Laudat insisted that the court needed no further clarification.
According to the Magistrate, under the bail act, the court is only entitled to provide a record in a bail application if bail is denied or if the prosecution is objecting to bail and it is granted but Richards insisted that the court was making a decision contrary to the interest of the defendant.
Both the Magistrate and the attorney stood resolute in their position which resulted in a fiery exchange.
Magistrate Laudat then stood down the matter for 2:00 p.m and informed Dr. Fontaine that since his conditional bail had expired and he had surrendered to the court, he must be placed in police custody until the resumption of his matter.
When the matter resumed at 3:30, the Magistrate again informed the attorneys that a new bail application had to be made for Dr. Fontaine since his conditional bail had expired.
However, Prevost and Richards maintained that since the previous bail was not revoked there was no need for a new bail application as they were only there to present certain information required from the surety.
“Mr. Fontaine, your lawyers are wasting the court’s time,” Magistrate Laudat said to the defendant. “The question is do you want bail?”
In response Dr. Fontaine stated, “Your Honor, I thought bail was already granted to me.”
The acting DPP also agreed with the Magistrate that a new bail application ought to be put forward. She said the prosecution’s only concern was whether or not the proposed surety was able to meet the control test since Royer said she was not in regular communication with the defendant.
“A surety coming to the court must show they have control over the accused. The prosecution has bent backwards since Monday guiding the defense and nothing has been done in respect of this. It’s a simple issue that has taken up the entire day,” the acting DPP stated.
Dalyrmple further argued that attorneys must come to court prepared as certain evidence is required even in bail application hearings.
“It is not a matter where you come here and say things and bail is granted, evidence has to be presented and this has not happened in this case,” she contended.
However, Richards was adamant in his position that bail had already been granted and had not been revoked and therefore, a new bail application was not warranted.
Magistrate Laudat then asked that Richards be removed from the court stating he was defying the order of the court.
“If you think I am standing as I’m required to do in presenting my client’s case, do not obey this unlawful order, “ the attorney told the police officers in court. “Your Honor, I am not here to disrespect you but I am also not here to take any disrespect from you.”
The Magistrate again made an order for Richards to be detained and placed in the cells pursuant to chapter 4:20 of the Magistrate Code of Procedure Act, section 215, ‘Power to Preserve Order.’
The attorney eventually stormed out of the court thereby escaping arrest.
Following Richards departure, attorney Prevost yielded to the court’s request and put forward a new bail application.
The surety, Royer, in giving evidence to the court said she will communicate with the defendant more frequently via telephone calls and WhatsApp to remind him of any upcoming court date.
Bail was then granted to Dr. Fontaine in the sum of $75,000.00.
He was further ordered to surrender all his travel documents to the court prior to his release and must not leave the State without first applying to the court for permission to do so 72 hours in advance.
Dr. Fontaine’s bail also stipulates that he must report to the Mahaut Police Station every Monday and Friday between 7:00 a.m and 7:00 p.m. He was further barred from conducting any interviews with the media on the matter directly or through a third party.
Breach of any of the stipulated conditions will result in the revocation of his bail.
The matter was adjourned to July 26, 2022, for trial of the charges of Incitement and Obstruction of Justice.