A Court of Appeal yesterday reduced fines for driving without a drivers’ permit and insurance from $13,000 to $2,900.
Oliver Bryan appeared before Appeal Court judges Mark Mohammed and Alice Yorke-Soo Hon in San Fernando to appeal the fines imposed on him by a Mayaro magistrate in 2014.
On August 1, police at Bristol Village, Mayaro, stopped the car Bryan was driving and found that he had neither a drivers’ permit nor insurance. Three days later he appeared in the Mayaro Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded guilty to the two charges laid by SRP Judith Duemonte. For driving without the insurance, the magistrate had fined Bryan $8,000 and for the permit, $5,000.
Attorney Christine Anderson-Sealy represented Bryan who appealed on two grounds - one being he did not have the benefit of an attorney and the other the severity of the sentence. Anderson-Sealy contended that her client was not even asked if he had legal representation. She submitted that Bryan was not able to properly explain himself before the magistrate. She gave an example saying that at the time of arrest, he was the holder of a learners’ permit and that just two days before, he had written the examination for a drivers’ permit. Anderson-Sealy said Bryan’s to police at the time of his arrest, “Me ent have a permit, I getting one Monday”, should have been a clue that he was in the process of obtaining a permit.
She presented to the judges, receipts from the Department of Transport to support her claims.
On the issue of the severity of the fines, the attorney said for driving without a permit, the magistrate had fined him $5,000 but the maximum fine for such an offence is $500. For driving without insurance, the magistrate had fined him $8,000, $3000 more than the maximum fine. Bryan was a first-time offender.
In response, state attorney George Busby submitted that the appellant was 55-years-old at the time of arrest.
The charges were very clear, and the man did not need a lawyer.
Busby added that if the man did have a learners’ permit, it required that the letter ‘L’ be displayed on the vehicle he was driving.
Yorke-Soo Hon, in delivering the ruling, said the Appeal Court disagreed with the submissions that the man was unable to properly represent himself saying he gave a full explanation to the magistrate after he had pleaded guilty.
The judge acknowledged that the magistrate had “exceeded her jurisdictions” meaning the fines imposed were higher than their maximum penalties. For driving without the permit, the Court of Appeal fined him $400 and for the insurance, $2,500. The fines are to be paid within a month failing which he would serve 21 days simple imprisonment. The magistrate had also disqualified Bryan from driving for three years and the Appeal Court removed that order.