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Traveller remanded after outburst at senior magistrate

A man who cursed at and obstructed customs officers at the airport was remanded yesterday after lashing out at a magistrate.

Michael Benjamin, 40, pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing customs officers in an incident on March 26.

Magistrates’ Court heard that police were called to LF Wade International Airport after receiving a report of an unruly passenger at the customs check.

They were informed that Benjamin appeared to be intoxicated and became belligerent after he was selected for secondary inspection.

The court heard that he had attempted to snatch his passport from the hands of a customs officer and thrown his bags on the ground, stating that if officers wanted to search his bags they needed to pick them up.

Benjamin continued to abuse the officers verbally all through the search, refused to allow his pockets to be searched and went to the customs officer’s side of the desk and had to be told to back up.

Eventually, Benjamin was sprayed with Captor spray and handcuffed, but continued to be noncompliant.

The court heard that Benjamin had a criminal record, but his last conviction was in 2006 for possession of a controlled drug.

Senior magistrate Maxanne Anderson initially ordered pre-sentencing reports on Benjamin and released him on bail until July 12.

Benjamin told the court that he was no longer a Bermuda resident and now lived in Angola. He asked if the matter could be dealt with immediately so that he could leave the country tomorrow.

As the magistrate considered fines for Benjamin, she noted that he appeared to be looking away and asked him if he was “on something”.

Benjamin responded instantly by asking the judge angrily if she was “on something”. He was subsequently remanded and removed from the courtroom.

A family member of Benjamin, urging leniency, told the court later that he was on the island for a family funeral and was emotionally distraught.

Ms Anderson responded that while the court was sympathetic to the defendant’s situation, it was not an excuse for his behaviour.

“I know it’s hard for us, so it must be even harder for you,” she said. “Our sympathies are with him but even when you are in grief you must always hold yourself up to a standard.”

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