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Yesterday's Sitting of Appellant Court in Metropolis. The Matters which were brought before their Honours the Three Judges. Obeah Appeal Fails

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Yesterday's Sitting of Appellant Court in Metropolis. The Matters which were brought before their Honours the Three Judges. Obeah Appeal Fails
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Mr Manley said that the defendant had been convicted by the Acting Resident Magistrate for Westmoreland for practising obeah and sentenced to nine months. The case raised the question as to what acts constituted the offence of obeah. It did not seem to have been disputed that the defendant had formed a church on his own and was a leader of a sect - there was nothing to show that the sect was unlawful. The only question might be whether he practised medicine. There was nothing to prevent a man from believing in the existence of spirits, be they good or evil, or whether there was any efficiency in healing by prayer or otherwise. The Acting Chief Justice said the question was whether the defendant came within the meaning of the Obeah Law so it would be better to see what the evidence was. Mr Manley submitted that there was no pretence at supernatural power - a meaningless ceremony was gone through, and the man told that by faith and prayer he could be cured. He was also told that if he drank a little salt and water that would make him feel better. Mr Justice Clarke said 'A medical practitioner might tell a patient you have been bewitched, I'll give you a pill to cure you.' He also talked about three lights burning in the morning before the prayer meeting which were symbolic. Proceeding Counsel submitted that the only pretence was that by faith and prayer he could have been cured. There was evidence that there was singing and prayer. The complainant said the accused told him he had a commission from God.
Defendant stated that they believed in cure by faith and prayer and that the complainant was told he should enrol as a member. He gave them (members) a bottle of salt and water for free as he believed that this along with prayer would cure if you had faith. The five shillings was for membership. Defence lawyer said that paper money 'would not work' - three lamps were burning but was a symbol of faith. The defendant never claimed to possess any power, all he maintained was that there was cure by faith. Mr Justice Law also commented that he noticed that it was said that the defendant spoke in an unknown tongue.
Defence lawyer stated that the true substance of the (case) was the efficacy (sic) of faith and prayer. He doubted whether it would come under the definition of practicing medicine. There was no prescription or diagnosis of the case and no fee or reward. It could not be an offence to believe in obeah. That there is such a thing as obeah is shown by the existence of the law and to practice was an offence. There was faith and praying in a building - the statement that this was a cure for even obeah if it is said that the diagnosis of the ailment was obeah, did not make it an offense under the law.
Acting Chief Justice argued that the court had nothing to do with the policy of the obeah law but to say whether a definite statement of facts came within the purview (sic) of the law. For the purposes of this case under appeal if the person pretended to possess supernatural (power) and that he did for gain, it was sufficient. Magistrate accepted this. The defendant may or may not have been a leader or founder of a sect, the question for the Court was whether what he did came within the scope of the law. There was ample evidence to justify the magistrate's (original) conclusion and the appeal would be dismissed.

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