Yahweh group members get new court date
ST JAMES, Jamaica — The case of 13 members of the St James-based religious group Qahal Yahweh, who were arrested and charged with violations of the Child Care and Protection Act, was adjourned until November when it came up for mention in the St James Parish Court on Friday.
The hearing was postponed because the court was told that several documents, to include a further police statement and information regarding question and answer sessions, had not yet been added to the case file.
The accused individuals charged are Rebecca Gallimore, Christopher Anderson, Nekeisha Harding, Derrick Clarke, Roanalee Maitland, Alicia Meadley, Fabian Nelson, Franchain Paris, Jodian Spence, Jose Foskin, Oral Spence, Rayon Letman and Ingrid Williams.
They were taken into custody during a joint special operation of the security forces at their Paradise Avenue religious compound in Montego Bay, on June 30.
The charges came only three weeks after the children of many of the accused were placed in State care.
The police confirmed that investigators removed several exhibits, photographs, and other material of evidentiary value from the compound.
The Qahal Yahweh compound, which is two doors away from the late Kevin Smith’s Pathway International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, made headlines in 2019 when authorities raided the property, leading to the arrest of the church’s leader and the removal of three children from the compound.
The raid follows months of complaints from residents about human trafficking, abduction, child abuse and sexual assaults.
The 13 defendants, who are all represented by King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie, had their bails extended until November 10.
Spence, who had previously pleaded guilty to assault and whose matter is being heard separately from the other 13 defendants, had previously had his sentencing hearing put off to Friday’s date when he last appeared in court on August 4.
But when Spence’s case was called up on Friday, his attorney Adrian Dayes indicated that he had not received full disclosure of documents from the prosecution regarding his client.
“When I came here, I indicated that I wanted the opportunity to have the disclosure, to read the reports, and to take proper instructions. I was not in the matter at the time he made the relevant decision,” Dayes explained, referring to Spence’s guilty plea entered during his first court appearance on July 19.
As a result, presiding judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley extended Spence’s bail to September 25, at which time Dayes is expected to have taken full instructions from the defendant ahead of the sentencing hearing.
“Your attorney needs to be in a position to speak to me about you, and he is not, because he has to be given the statements, so that will be done by September 25,” Ashley explained to Spence before he was allowed to leave the courtroom.