Chancellor mounts probe into $75,000 fine for causing death
Stabroek News
January 26, 2002

Almost daily for the past two weeks, members of the public have expressed outrage particularly through the print media over a sentence handed down by Magistrate Fitzgerald Yaw in a causing death by dangerous driving case.

In January, Yaw had ordered Andrew Persaud to pay a fine of $75,000, after he (Persaud) had been convicted of causing the deaths of Mahendranauth Singh and Robin Ramotar two years ago. The victims died while Andrew Persaud and Terry Persaud had been racing along Vlissengen Road on October 19, 1999. Andrew Persaud had been driving motor car PDD 3433 and that it was that vehicle which had collided with Singh and Ramotar. Terry Persaud had been found not guilty on the said day. They had both been charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

Since then, several letters were published condemning Yaw's decision. At a Full Court session this week at the Court of Appeal in Kingston, Georgetown to pay tribute to the late justices Akbar Khan and Charles Fung-A-Fat, Chancellor of the Judiciary Desiree Bernard noted the concerns of the public on the issue. Justice Bernard said that the contentions presented by the public had been noted and that an investigation was currently ongoing in an effort to clarify the problem.

One legal professional told Stabroek News that under the Administration of Justice Act (AJA), which allows an indictable matter to be tried summarily, Persaud could be fined up to $100,000. However, that source, and others in the legal arena said that in the light of the conditions which existed when the victims met their deaths, a magistrate, using the discretion accorded him, could impose a heavier penalty. And further, that death as a consequence of dangerous driving could also be referred to as involuntary manslaughter.

A copy of the recent amendment to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Section 35 (1) states that a person convicted of causing death by dangerous or reckless driving, "...if tried indictably is liable for imprisonment for a period of up to ten years." The old act stipulates five years with no mention of a fine in that section.

In sections 36-37, the recommended fine for dangerous driving "is not less than $25,000 and no more than $50,000."

This is not the first time that Yaw's decision regarding a causing death case has been questioned. During last October, the press had been bombarded with letters when Yaw fined Albouystown resident Orin Fraser $15,000 after he had been found guilty of causing the death of veteran footballer, Walter Moses.

Contacted for a comment then, Chief Justice Carl Singh had said that he had already received the file and had subsequently forwarded a letter to Yaw. He had further stated, at the time, that until he had thoroughly examined the facts, he would have been unable to comment on the issue.