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State counter’s claim of alcohol not being a dangerous substance

Friday, April 21 2017

THE State submitted to a magistrate yesterday that the court should interpret giving a child alcohol to drink, as an act of administering a dangerous substance, rather than holding to the specific and narrow interpretation that alcohol cannot be deemed to be dangerous.

In January, Pamela Elder SC, submitted to Senior Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan in the Princes Town Magistrates’ court, that there is no offence known to law that alcohol is a crime punishable, and therefore, he should discharge Reeshie Surajbally, 38, of Princes Town, on a charge of giving two young girls alcohol to drink in May of last year.

Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan is hearing a Preliminary Inquiry into charges that Surajbally gave alcohol to two sisters who are primary school students; that he kidnapped them; and that committed acts of indecency on the girls. The charges arose from an incident in which Princes Town Police Station, found children inside a van in Barrackpore on May 17. The girls and their mother have testified in the inquiry.

In January, Elder made a no-case submission on Surajbally’s behalf, arguing that alcohol could not be deemed a ‘dangerous substance’, in law, and therefore the accused has committed no offence.

In respect of the other charges, Elder submitted that the evidence was manifestly unreliable and as a result, Surajbally should be discharged.

Yesterday, State Attorney Sarah De Silva replied to the submission and stated that under Section 36 of the Children’s Act, a person has committed an offence if he or she administers a dangerous substance to a child. She said that the word ‘dangerous’, was in contention in order to determine whether the court could rule that alcohol falls into the category of dangerous substances.

The State attorney asked the magistrate to apply a specific principle in law known as ‘ejusdem generis’, when interpreting the issue of alcohol in relation to a dangerous substance in Section 36 of the Children’s Act. Ejusdem generis is rule of interpretation that where a class of things is followed by general wording that is not itself expansive, the general wording is usually restricted things of the same type, as the listed items.

De Silva submitted that the prosecution, therefore, has made out its case against Surajbally and he should be committed to stand trial in the High Court before a judge and jury. Elder told Magistrate Rambachan that she would want to do further research on the point given by De Silva. She will do so on May 26, after which, the magistrate would rule.



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