A Venezuelan woman, who was among a group of locals and foreigners charged with breaching COVID-19 public health regulations by gathering at a guesthouse in St Ann’s, in April, will face trial.
Guardian Media understands that during a virtual hearing on Monday, Yosmairy Yohely Durate Vallenilla was expecting to have the charge against her dismissed by Magistrate Sarah De Silva as was done with the other accused persons, exactly a week ago.
Last week, De Silva dismissed the charge against Bruce Bowen, Christopher Wilson, Dominic Suraj, Collin Ramjohn, Marlon Hinds, and six Venezuelan women after police prosecutors requested another adjournment while the trial was expected to begin.
In making her decision, De Silva noted that the police should have acted with urgency based on their concerns about the case. She also said that she had to balance the interests of all the parties before her.
The T&T Police Service (TTPS) has since appealed the decision.
Vallenilla appeared before De Silva on the same day but was not as lucky as her case was adjourned because it was filed separately from the group’s and was not set for trial previously.
During the hearing on Monday, De Silva set Vallenilla’s case for trial on November 16 and gave police officers an extension to disclose their evidence against her including video footage captured by investigators during the raid and interview notes.
According to the reports, the group was arrested at Alicia’s Guest House at Coblentz Avenue in St Ann’s, after a team of officers led by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith executed a search warrant on April 10.
At the time, breaches under the regulations carried a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison, if convicted.
The maximum fine has since been increased to $250,000 through subsequent amendments to the regulations.
While their case was still pending, the local men also brought a separate lawsuit challenging the overall legality of the regulations.
Their case was heard by former High Court Judge and current Appellate Judge Ronnie Boodoosingh, together with a lawsuit brought by pundit Satyanand Maharaj over aspects of the regulations, which deal with places of worship.
The group’s case was dismissed by Boodoosingh in September, but Maharaj’s was partly upheld.
Boodoosingh ruled that the regulations did not provide enough details on how the offences should be applied to places of worship.
“That in itself puts someone in peril of being brought to court to answer an uncertain offence,” Boodoosingh said.
While Boodoosingh noted that his judgement was mostly a legal victory for the Government, he said that it should not empower it to widen the scope of the measures with criminal sanctions for non-compliance, without involving Parliament.
Vallenilla is being represented by Seanna Baboolal.