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Language problems delay sentencing for curfew breakers

A group of five people caught out after the Covid-19 curfew Government curfew may have to wait eight weeks to be sentenced.

Magistrates’ Court ordered social inquiry reports on the defendants, but heard some of the five spoke only Portuguese and would need translators – which would delay the process.

Rui Mendes, 33, Sandra Bicho, 45, Maria Aguiar, 50, Luis Bicho, 50, and Miguel Bicho, 19, who were travelling to their homes after a birthday party, pleaded guilty to a breach of the former midnight to 5am curfew.

The virtual sitting heard that police stopped the group on Crow Lane, Pembroke, around 1.30am on February 14.

Magistrate Tyrone Chin ordered social inquiry reports to be completed as quickly as possible – even though communication problems, including a defendant with partial deafness and several others who needed a Portuguese translator could cause delays.

He said: “The court puts forward that the social inquiry report is to be completed to the Department of Court Service’s best ability as a social inquiry report is to aid the court in affixing the correct sentence or fine for an individual.”

But Nick Lewis, of the Department of Court Services, warned the court that the process would be difficult because of the number of people involved and the need for several translators and report writers.

Elizabeth Christopher, who appeared for the defendants, said that Mr Bicho, from Pembroke, had claimed responsibility for the incident.

She added that he was the only one in the group with a job and asked that the other four, who live in separate Paget homes, be fined between $200 to $300.

But Maria Sofianos, for the Crown, said: “It may be considered harsh but we still say that they should be given the appropriate fines.

“They are all adults and responsible for themselves.”

Mr Chin also reprimanded Elizabeth Christopher after she was heard to call the situation a “s**tshow”.

Mr Chin told her: “Your behaviour was repugnant.

“I have to stress, Ms Christopher, that you are the current president of the Bar.”

Ms Christopher apologised for the outburst and explained that the it was not directed at the court.

She added that she was frustrated about her legal advice being lost in translation and thought she had turned her microphone off.

Ms Christopher said: “I was animated, even though I thought that the court was making the only fair decision it could in trying circumstances.”

Mr Chin adjourned the case until July 1 and released the five on $1,000 bail each.

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