Senior Magistrate to rule on Burton Williams matter this Wednesday
From the Courts
November 23, 2012

Senior Magistrate to rule on Burton Williams matter this Wednesday

Senior Magistrate Donald Browne is expected to deliver a verdict on Wednesday, November 28, at 1:30 p.m., in the case in which former health minister and New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Burton Williams is charged with attempted damage to property{{more}} and that, within the precincts of the House of Assembly, behaved in a manner in which a breach of peace was likely to be occasioned, on January 28, 2011.

Crown Counsel, Colin John, who was told to furnish the court with written submissions on Wednesday, November 21, confirmed to SEARCHLIGHT that he has already done so.

The defence, led by Andreas Coombs, with Olin Dennie appearing with him, have until Monday, November 26 to hand in their written submissions, before decision on the matter, next Wednesday.

After much heated legal arguments between the prosecution and defence, the matter came to a close at the Kingstown Magistrates Court on November 19, after defence witnesses, Venold Coombs, president of the St Vincent Football Federation and technician Lincoln Prescott were called to the stand.

On the date in question, the NDP was staging a march and rally in protest against the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Code 2011 Bill, which was being read in Parliament at the High Court building, just opposite the Kingstown vegetable market.

When he took the witness stand, Prescott told the court that he was present at the rally and was having a conversation with someone when he saw a crowd moving towards the entrance of the Parliament building.

“I proceeded behind the crowd and I saw them making attempts to go into the yard of the house of parliament. From where I was, I couldn’t hear what was happening at the front of the crowd…,” Prescott testified.

He added that he saw a group of persons at the back of the crowd take up one of the iron rails which were placed in front of the Court House and begin moving forward with it.

“Mr Williams made an attempt to stop them and he was shouting no, no… He (Williams) moved forward, got close to them and attempted to hold onto the rails. I tried to move forward as well, but someone pushed me in my back and I had turned around to deal with that situation,” Prescott recounted.

Part of the prosecution’s case was that Williams, along with other protestors, used a barricade to ram the main gate that leads to the Parliament.

However, throughout his testimony, Williams remained adamant that he did no such thing and that he was only persuading others not to ram the gate.

Prescott further told the court that after dealing with his “situation”, he lost track of what was happening with the rails.

“I didn’t see Mr Williams when I turned around. The crowd was separated then. There was no crowd,” Prescott said, adding that there were still a few “agitated” persons around.

Under cross examination by John, Prescott said he could not recall Williams addressing the gathering at the rally.

He noted that he was about 15 feet away from Williams when he (Williams) was attempting to hold onto the barricade (rail).

“The crowd was not aggressive while moving towards the gate…,” he said.

“From your observation was the crowd calm?” asked John.

“I would say they were calm,” Prescott replied.

“The persons who picked up the barricade, were they calm as well?”

Prescott replied, “I wouldn’t say they were calm. They were agitated.”

“Were you in a position to say which direction Mr Williams directed the barricade on that day?”

“Yes! he attempted to hold it back…,” Prescott answered.

“How did you know that?” John questioned.

“He (Burton) was shouting to them saying no…,” testified Prescott.

The crown counsel also accused Prescott of being a witness of convenience.

In his testimony, Coombs said he was in the vicinity of the march and rally when he saw a “commotion” at the top entrance to the court at White Chapel road and then another at the main gate.

According to Coombs, he saw some persons hold onto a barricade, while others were moving out of the way.

Coombs said he saw Williams move out of the way when the barricade came close to his foot.

“He went in front and was telling them (persons holding onto barricade) to take it easy. He was gesticulating to tell them to take it easy… He put his hands up in the air to tell them to stop…,” Coombs testified.

Coombs said during that time, he saw a Special Services Unit (SSU) officer point his gun in Williams’ direction.

“I pulled him (Williams) from in front of the gate from the gun. The place just had a little commotion. The place was quiet,” he said.

Under cross examination, Coombs said he recalled hearing former NDP senator Anesia Baptiste and her husband speaking through a microphone, along with others addressing the crowd.

However, Coombs said he never heard Williams speak.

Coombs added that when the people held the barricade, he did not see which direction they were going.

“Why did Mr Williams have to tell the crowd to take it easy?” John asked.

Coombs, in his reply, said “because they were blocking the the pathway… It was a peaceful moment. The place was generally quiet and there wasn’t anything alarming there. After I pulled him (Williams) the place was quiet.” (KW)