Two more churchgoers plead guilty to obstructing police, all four receive bail

Four members of the New Testament Church of God after their court hearing at the All Saints Magistrate’s Court. (Photo by Latrishka Thomas)
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By Latrishka Thomas

There are now four persons from the Bolans New Testament Church of God awaiting their fate after an incident that took place on Sunday where officers attempted to disperse the congregation for failure to comply with the 25-person restriction.

Yesterday, Eric Rattary and Jennifer Kenton admitted to obstructing a constable, joining the church’s pastor, Uriah Taylor, and worshipper Alton Stoner who had appeared before the same Magistrate, Ngaio Emanuel-Edwards, the day prior.

Taylor had pleaded guilty to failure to comply with the public health regulation and Stoner admitted to battery of a police officer, obstruction and resisting arrest.

They were both remanded to prison until yesterday.

However, lawyer Sherfield Bowen, who represented all four, said he will be making a submission on behalf of his clients, challenging the legality of their charges and the social distancing regulations under the Public Health Act.

Bowen was asked to tender his submission by April 14 after which the prosecution will be given until April 24 to respond.

The quartet will then return to court on May 5 for the magistrate’s decision.

Bowen also made bail applications for all four of his clients and his requests were granted.

Bail for Kenton — a 61-year-old pastor from Jamaica who was visiting the island for a funeral — was set at $3,000 with a $1,500 cash component, and she was required to have two local sureties. She must also report to St John’s Police Station three days a week and surrender her passport.

Forty-one-year-old Rattary’s bail was $2,000 with a $1,000 cash component. He too must be accompanied by two sureties and must report to Johnson’s Point Police Station three days a week. The local barber was also asked to surrender both his Antiguan and Jamaican passports.

Taylor, 64, who has been a pastor in Antigua for over 20 years, was ordered to pay $4,000 with a cash component of $2,000 and must have two Antiguan sureties should he wish to roam free. He is required to report to the Police Headquarters three times a week and has to turn in his Antiguan passport.

Stoner was also released on $3,000 bail, and was ordered to pay $1,500 forthwith and have two Antiguan sureties. The 33-year-old Jamaican national also has to hand his passport and work permit over to the court and report to the Police Headquarters three times a week.

Meanwhile, in a letter from the New Testament Church of God Antigua District, Administrative Bishop Derrick Benta apologised to those in authority as well as the residents of Antigua and Barbuda for the “unfortunate event that took place at the Bolans New Testament Church of God on Sunday, March 29, 2020”.

The letter read: “As our islands and the globe continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, we know as an organisation, that every member is held to the same standard as everyone else to follow the laws and guidelines of our country. Our failure to do so in that instance…was wrong and we are sorry.

“We beg our forgiveness and that of our fellow citizens in this situation.”

The Bishop on behalf of his church also pledged to adhere to the social distancing protocols. “We will continue to encourage and hold our members and supporters to the very high standards of Antigua and Barbuda,” Bishop Benta concluded.

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