Hartin Checks Out Of Kolbe!
After spending 8 days on remand at the Belize Central Prison, Jasmin Hartin, the wealthy socialite accused of killing Police Superintendent Henry Jemmott, was granted Supreme Court bail this afternoon. She is free on bail tonight after being released from the prison at 5:00 this evening.
For today's hearing, she appeared virtually before Justice Herbert Lord. He asked the prosecution and her defense attorneys to present extensive arguments as to why she should or should not be granted bail.
The DPP's Office had objected to bail on the grounds that Hartin is a flight risk. Today Senior Crown Counsel Shanice Lovell was the first to present arguments to back that up, and she submitted that if Hartin is released from prison, she is likely to flee the country in an attempt to escape from her prosecution for manslaughter by negligence.
Lovell told the court that Hartin is a Canadian, and that she has been residing in Belize through continuous extensions of her visitor's permit. As a matter of fact, the most recent extension to her permit expired 2 days ago.
The prosecutor also pointed out that - as disclosed in her statement - Hartin handled Jemmoth's police-issued firearm while under the influence, and without a proper gun license.
Senior Crown Counsel Lovell also made submissions in anticipation of the defense's response to the bail objection. In written arguments, Hartin and her legal team pointed out to the court that she is the mother of twins, 4-year-old boys who are Belizean. They argued that this is a strong tie to Belize and a counter to the prosecution's insistence that she will flee the country. In response, the crown counsel told the court that Hartin's children are actually dual citizens with Canadian passports and that they could leave the jurisdiction without any issues.
The crown counsel then focused on her wealth, and how that could enable her to flee. She submitted that Hartin is "a person of means, a person of vast resources". The prosecution reasoned that she can leave the country fairly easily.
Senior Crown Counsel Lovell submitted that in the best interest of the administration of justice, Hartin's bail application should be denied because, in the prosecution's opinion, no court-ordered bail conditions would lessen the risk of her fleeing the country.
Senior Crown Counsel Godfrey Smith replied to the objection on Hartin's behalf. He pointed out to the court that Hartin has a right to bail based on the presumption of innocence. The defense also added that the threshold for denying bail is stronger than simply a risk that she will flee. Smith told the court that the prosecution must adequately show that there is an "unacceptable risk" to bail that cannot be managed or mitigated by any court-ordered bail conditions. He told the court that it isn't allowed to simply speculate and conclude that she will flee.
Smith also invited the court to view her legal status in Belize from a different perspective. He submitted that the prosecution filed documents demonstrating that Hartin has dutifully complied with the requirements for a visitor's permit by receiving extensions for the last 7 years. He pointed out that by now, she should be able to apply for Belizean citizenship. He also asked the court to consider that she is of good character and that she has no previous charges or convictions in Belize or elsewhere. He also asked the judge to consider that Hartin did not flee the scene of the crime that night, and neither did she try to dispose of the weapon which inflicted the fatal injury.
He closed off by pointing out that Hartin has strong economic ties to Belize, and that the penalty for manslaughter by negligence is not so severe that a right-thinking person would become a fugitive for the rest of their life in avoidance of it.
After a brief adjournment, Justice Lord heard a rebuttal from the prosecution in response to Smith's submissions, and he later ruled that Hartin should be released on bail of $30,000 and one surety, or a cash deposit.
After the hearing, Smith granted the awaiting press an interview right outside the courtroom:
Godfrey Smith, SC - Attorney for Jasmin Hartin
"The Judge has granted bail."
"Explain to us, sir, the nature of the conditions that came with it. We understand that they're very strict."
Godfrey Smith, SC
"I didn't make note of all of them, but bail was set in the sum of 30 thousand Belize dollars plus a surety of the same, reportage to the police station once per day. A request has to be made of the court if there is a wish to travel. Obviously, the surrender of passport and all other documents, and all forms of identification, and another of other - curfew was one."
"In the end, the judge felt that there was not an unacceptable risk of flight, once the appropriate conditions could be put in place."
"Basically, the question of whether grant bail or not includes a whole list of factors: previous convictions, the character of the person, economic ties to the country, family ties, community ties, and so basically, the judge carefully went down the list and concluded that there was not an unacceptable risk of flight."
"What's the next step in terms of getting Miss Hartin from prison. We know that she spent 8 days there."
Godfrey Smith, SC
"Papers have to be signed. The order has to be finalized, and of course, the cash bail and the surety has to be signed up. So, we still have work to do to get that going."
"Will that be completed by the end of today?"
Godfrey Smith, SC
"That is the hope if you do not detain me much longer."
"When considering the judge's misgivings about the media attention surrounding this case, did you have any trepidation about entering that argument that she can't flee anywhere where the media can't follow?"
Godfrey Smith, SC
"Well, I think all I can say on that is for us, it made little sense to argue flight risk if she's under an international media microscope, for an offense for which the likely sentence may be a fine or a short term of imprisonment. It makes no sense to flee in such circumstances."
As you heard, the judge ordered Hartin to comply with 8 strict conditions to her bail. She must immediately surrender her passport and identification documents to the court. She cannot leave Belize without the express permission of the Supreme Court. She must abide by a curfew and stay at home between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. She also has to report to the San Ignacio Police Station daily. She must not contact any prosecution witnesses or attempt to impede or obstruct the investigation against her.. Finally, if she breaches any of these conditions, it will result in the immediate revocation of her bail.