A 3-day custody is now possible in Saint-Martin

The authorities have signed a convention enabling to hold arrested individuals in custody. According to certain conditions.

Today, logistical constraints are such that summary trials can only be organized on Wednesday at the courthouse in Saint-Martin. It’s the only morning when the three judges and the Deputy Prosecutor (the hearings are collegial, meaning with several judges) are available at the same time, as well as on Thursday for collegial hearings.

Summary trials were implemented in Saint-Martin in 2012 and enable to quickly judge an individual who was arrested a few days earlier. At the end of their custody, they are presented before the Deputy Prosecutor who, in the light of the elements and the plainness of the case, considers that they can be judged.

Summary trials are held regularly in Saint-Martin even if there have been less these last few weeks, due to a lack of candidates because there have been less acts committed. In 2014 and 2015, more than twenty individuals were judged this way after having committed an armed robbery for most of them. The sentences have been severe, at least three years in prison in most cases.

This summary trial procedure allows the judicial system to provide a quick response. The conviction comes just a few days after the arrest, which in some cases occurs a few hours after the acts have been committed. It’s not uncommon to see individuals commit a robbery on Monday, be sentenced on Wednesday morning and go to prison in Guadeloupe in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, the implementation of this procedure in Saint-Martin had limits. In order for individuals to be judged this way, they had to be arrested no later than on Monday. If they were indeed arrested on Sunday or Saturday, they had to be transferred to Guadeloupe in order to be incarcerated until their trial a few days later. In Saint-Martin, it was not possible to keep suspects in jail at the end of their custody (which cannot be extended indefinitely) due to the lack of logistical means.

This lack was overcome on Friday July 1 by the signature of a convention between the gendarmerie, the police, the penitentiary administration direction, the First President of the Basse-Terre Court of Appeal and the Public Prosecutor of the Basse-terre Court of Appeal in the presence of the Minister of Justice (non-signatory).

This convention enables the application of Article 937 of the Criminal Procedure Code; a unique provision in France - which concerns only Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. It gives the gendarmes and police the possibility to hold one or several arrested individuals in custody in Saint-Martin until their summary trial.

This detention is however limited to a period of three days maximum. During the detention, the suspect will be able to speak with their lawyer. They will not be able to receive visits from their family. Four cells have been provided for this purpose, two at the gendarmerie and two in the border police station (PAF).

On the other hand, if the court issues a detention warrant at the end of the hearing, the defendant will still be transferred to the Guadeloupe prison. Likewise, if on the day of the hearing, the defendant refuses to be summarily tried (according to their rights) because they want a delay to prepare for their defense and the court, according to the Public Prosecutor’s requisitions, requests that the defendant be placed in pre-trial custody with a detention warrant.


Estelle Gasnet