In March 2008, St. Vincent national Mark Antonio De Freitas obtained a certificate from the Vincentian police stating that he had a clean criminal record, according to testimony heard in High Court on Tuesday.
That police certificate allowed him to move to the Virgin Islands, where he met and fell in love with VI belonger Perlin Dawson.
The two planned to get married in 2013, they have claimed, but a death in Ms. Dawson’s family pushed the wedding date back to July 2014.
Those wedding plans were put on hold indefinitely when the Immigration Department found out that Mr. De Freitas does not, in fact, have a clean criminal record.
Before he was known as Mr. De Freitas, his name was Mark Peters – and Mr. Peters was convicted of manslaughter in St. Vincent in 1999 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Shortly after he was released early for good behaviour in 2007, Mr. Peters changed his name and obtained a police certificate stating that he had a clean record.
When his manslaughter conviction was discovered by authorities in the VI, then-Governor Boyd McCleary ordered him to be deported on June 5, 2014. Mr. De Freitas and Ms. Dawson filed for a marriage licence several days later, but they never received one.
Mr. De Freitas’ attorney, Patrick Thompson, argued on Tuesday that the sequence of events described above violated two fundamental rights guaranteed to his client under the VI Constitution: the right to marry and the right to have a protected family life.
Crown Counsel Jo-Ann Roberts-Williams responded for the government, telling High Court Justice Vicki-Ann Ellis the complainant did not have the right to marry because he gained residency by deception and was thus in the territory illegally.
Since the Marriage Act requires people to be present in the VI in order to be married here, Ms. Roberts-Williams contended, Mr. De Freitas couldn’t receive a marriage licence because he entered unlawfully and was about to be deported.
Mr. Thompson responded that as long as his client remains physically present in the territory, he still has the right to marry.
Constitutional rights apply universally to everyone in the territory — even those here illegally, he argued.
“If you follow the Crown’s logic, someone illegally in the territory wouldn’t have any rights, including the right to life,” he reasoned.
Mr. Thompson also contested Ms. Roberts-Williams’ assertion that his client was in the territory illegally.
Mr. De Freitas didn’t enter unlawfully for several reasons, Mr. Thompson contended: He had a valid police certificate; his passport noted that his last name used to be Peters; and he never explicitly stated that he had no prior convictions.
People who enter the territory do not have a legal duty to go above and beyond what’s required from them by law, he said.
“He should have done more,” Ms. Roberts-Williams responded, arguing that Mr. De Freitas should have been proactive in disclosing his prior convictions.
Ms. Ellis said she would render a judgment on the matter on May 14.