Bennett v Commissioner of Police

JudgeDouglas, C.J.,Williams, J.
Judgment Date20 June 1985
CourtDivisional Court (Barbados)
Docket NumberNo. 40 of 1984
Date20 June 1985

Supreme Court. Divisional

Douglas, C.J.; Williams, J.

No. 40 of 1984

Commissioner of Police

Mr. E. D. Mottley, Q.C. for the Appellant.

Mr. O. Springer for the Respondent.

Criminal law - Appeal against conviction — Indecent exposure. The Appellant was charged under the Vagrancy Act, Cap. 156 section 3(1)(d) of wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely exposing her person in a place of public resort — Whether the decision was erroneous in point of law and against the weight of evidence — Whether a female could be convicted of an offence under section 2 of the Act — Section 36 of the Interpretation Act enacts that words in an enactment in the plural shall include the singular — Since there is nothing in the Vagrancy Act to exclude the application of section 36 of that Interpretation Act the words “any person” in the section were meant to apply to females and males — There is no justification for restricting the application of the words “any person” to the male sex — Context in which the provision appears as well as the nature would seem to indicate an intended application to females as well as males — The mischief aimed at appears to be wilful exposure to the public of indecent exhibitions and displays — Appeal dismissed.


The following are the reasons for our dismissal of the appeal by Sonia Bennett in this case.


The appellant Sonia Bennett was convicted by a Magistrate at District “A” on an information which charged her with having on the 8 th day of July, 1983 wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely exposed her person in a place of public resort, to wit, Zanzibar Club and Restaurant, contrary to section 3 (1) (d) of the Vagrancy Act Cap. 156. She was deemed a rogue and vagabond and placed on a bond to be of good behaviour for 12 months. In default she was ordered to be imprisoned for 3 months.


The record reveals the evidence of Sergeant Grafton Phillips and Constable Small of the Royal Barbados Police Force who testified that on Friday the 8 th of July, 1983 they went on duty to the Zanzibar Club and Restaurant situate at Nelson Street, St. Michael. According to their testimony they paid fees for admission and, with about 75 other persons, men and women, sat in chairs encircling a bed on and around which the appellant, introduced as “the Surprise Flying Saucer”, gave her performance.


According to the evidence when she started she was wearing a bikini swimsuit. Music was played and she danced around the bed. Then she climbed on to the bed and removed her swimsuit. Thereafter she performed a variety of acts, some with male participation, in which her private parts were fully exposed to the view of the spectators. Throughout a light shone on the bed and a spot light was kept — focused on her. The police officers in their testimony described all that she did and it is unnecessary to detail it here. Police Constable Best produced negatives and photographs of the exterior and interior of the building and the informant closed his case.


It was submitted on behalf of the appellant that there was no case to answer. It was said that the use of the word “person” in the enactment is limited to the male so that exposure of the person would be exposure of the male genitals and cannot be committed by a woman. Reference was made to the English Vagrancy Act 1824 and the case of Evans v. Ewels [1972] 2 ALL E. R. 22. It was also contended that the evidence given by the informant's witnesses was contradictory, unreliable and discredited and that the appellant ought not to be called upon for a defence.


Both these arguments were rejected by the Magistrate who called for defence. Counsel for the appellant rested on the submission and the Magistrate convicted the appellant.


The appeal before us is on two grounds, first, that the decision is erroneous in point of law and, second, that it is against the weight of evidence. There is no substance whatever in the second ground. There is an abundance of evidence to support the conviction and this ground can be summarily rejected.


Counsel relied on Evans v. Ewels, above cited, in support of the submission that a female cannot be convicted of an offence under section 3 (1) (d) of the ...

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