After spending eight 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 Wednesday 9 June 2021. She is free on bail after being released from the prison in the evening. For the hearing, she appeared virtually before Supreme Court 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 Director of Public Prosecution had objected to bail on the grounds that Hartin is a flight risk. 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.