Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald remained under police guard on Tuesday at the St Clair Medical Centre for a second day as she was unable to post her $2 million bail bond on seven criminal charges.
Her attorney, Pamela Elder SC, described as “slow, tedious and antiquated.”
McDonald’s complained of feeling unwell on Monday hours after being charged with corruption-related offences and did not appear in court alongside her companion and three other men charged with similar offences.
McDonald was fired for a third time as a government minister after she was charged and sacked of her position as deputy political leader of the PNM yesterday.
Elder in a telephone interview with Guardian Media refused to disclose details of McDonald’s health condition or when she would be discharged from hospital
“I am not commenting on Ms McDonald’s health at all.”
Having visited McDonald for a few minutes at the private hospital where she continues to be under police custody, Elder said “We are looking at the legal issues and that is the bail issue. It is being processed. That is as far as I know. It is a slow, tedious and antiquated system we have for processing bail.”
This system, Elder said our “legislature” needs to look at.
The delay in obtaining bail her for the 61-year-old client has no way, frustrated Elder.
“I am an experienced criminal attorney. I know all the problems in the system.”
However, Elder said the slow process was causing McDonald undue stress.
“Anyone who is in police custody it is a stressful situation.”
In the six days McDonald has been detained, Elder said her client did all that was required of her.
“She has been interviewed, charged and hospitalised so things are taking place.”
On Monday, Elder had complained that McDonald’s constitutional rights to reasonable bail and to be brought before a judicial officer after being charged were denied.
Asked if she intends to pen a letter to Chief Justice Ivor Archie on these she highlighted, Elder answered “the CJ should be aware of it. He should have constructive knowledge of it. This was the function of the legislature.”
She said it makes no sense granting a person bail “and he or she has to go through a very lengthy procedure. It is a mockery of the system. You are entitled to reasonable bail. You get bail and then you have this inordinate time for it to take place.”
Elder who also represents McDonald’s husband Michael Carew who was also charged with fraud and money laundering said he too had not been released on bail.
“As far as I am aware he is still in prison,” Elder said.
Carew, Edgar Zephyrine and Victor Anthony remained locked behind bars last night.
Criminal attorney Fareed Ali last night agreed with his law colleague Pamela Elder that the system in obtaining bail was antiquated.
Ali outlined steps a person who has been charged has to go through in acquiring bail.
Step 1) The court must ascertain whether the bailor lawfully owns the property.
Step 2) To ascertain if the particular property is being used for any other purpose collaterally for bail.
Step 3) The property must show that it carries no risks. Following which bail can be accessed.
Ali said that three way process does not take 15 minutes.
“This process can last from two weeks to a month. If Ms McDonald has $2 million in property she can use, the Clerk of the Peace or the Registrar of the High Court has to examine the documents that reflects ownership of the property. That process means that the Clerk of the Peace and the Registrar have to call all the courts in T&T to determine whether that property/properties belongs to the person/people and is/are currently being used for bail.”
Ali said this results in protracted delays in the system.
“Our system is antiquated in that regard.”