The cries of pregnant cancer patient Melissa Evans echoed throughout the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday after she was told she had to spend a night in prison after being denied bail in
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Former chief magistrate Mc Nicolls, 57, passes on
Former Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls has died. Mc Nicolls, 57, of Torib Tabaquite Road, New Grant, lost a battle with chronic lymphoid leukaemia (CLL) yesterday and passed away at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex where he had been ailing for some time. He leaves to mourn four children, Michael, Mikela, Sherman Jr and Shermine.
Mc Nicolls’ career spanned 31 years. In 2010 Mc Nicolls, who was then Chief Magistrate, took extended leave to battle cancer. He sought treatment in Canada and was later replaced by Senior Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar after retiring at 55.
Yesterday Chief Justice Ivor Archie on behalf of the judiciary expressed its profound sadness at Mc Nicholls’ passing and described him as “a person of even temperament who was able to maintain his calm even in the most challenging circumstances.“ He was involved in a number of high-profile matters during his career.
As Registrar of the High Court he witnessed the controversial execution of Glen Ashby, who was hanged for murder in 1994 while his lawyers were before the Appeal Court asking for a stay of execution and the Privy Council was also simultaneously granting a stay. Another case was the Integrity Commission charges laid against former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday in relation to a London bank account.
The then chief magistrate convicted Panday of the charges in April 2006 and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment. He also ordered that Panday pay the State $1.6 million which was in his London account at the end of the years 1997, 1998, and 1999. The former Prime Minister, who spent seven days in jail, challenged the ruling in the Privy Council and won.
Mc Nicolls was also embroiled in the controversy surrounding former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma whom he accused of attempting to influence the outcome of Panday’s Integrity Commission trial. He was also the state’s main witness in impeachment proceedings against the former Chief Justice.
In June 2007 Mc Nicolls faced disciplinary charges from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission for refusing to be cross-examined in the criminal inquiry against Sharma. This refusal caused the case against Sharma to collapse. Earlier this year Mc Nicolls returned to courtroom as an attorney after he re-established his private practice at his New Grant home.
Yesterday residents on Mc Nicolls’ street were still in shock. One neighbour, who knew Mc Nicolls for the last 33 years, said residents would miss him. “He was very quiet and down to earth. He liked his gardening most of all,” the neighbour, who requested anonymity, said.
Mc Nicolls, the neighbour said, was always willing to give free legal advice to anyone who asked him for help. He was a Seventh Day Adventist and was “very strong in his church,” the neighbour added.
The neighbour said Christmas in their neighbourhood would not be bright since residents were already mourning the death of machine operator Ronnie Deonarine, 45, who was crushed to death at the Golconda to Debe highway construction site on Thursday. He lived a few houses away from Mc Nicolls.
Yesterday condolences from the legal fraternity poured in as news of Mc Nicolls’ death spread. Senior Counsel Hendrickson Seunath, former vice president of the Law Association, expressed shock. “I saw him at the Princes Town court just a few weeks ago. He had a long and varied career as a lawyer. I first knew him as a magistrate, then a registrar, then back as a magistrate. He was an interesting person. He had some ups and downs generally speaking,” Seunath said.
Interim president of the Southern Assembly of Lawyers Dexter Bailey said the assembly was saddened to learn of Mc Nicolls’ death. “We would have lost somebody who would have contributed greatly to the legal profession. It came as a shock to everybody. I would have seen him recently in the court. I think for members of the profession it was quite sudden and unexpected. He was someone who was pleasant, always smiling and engaging in conversation,” Bailey said.