From the Courts
January 10, 2014
Charges not an abuse of process – Magistrate

An application by lawyers for Opposition senator Vynnette Frederick, that nine charges against her be dismissed, has been turned down.{{more}}

On Wednesday, at the Biabou Magistrate’s Court, Magistrate Rickie Burnett dismissed an application by Frederick’s lawyers, who had argued that the charges against Frederick were unlawful, because she had previously been acquitted of the same charges. They also claimed that bringing the charges again, amounted to an abuse of process.

As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, the substantive matter, in which Frederick is facing nine charges, will be given a commencement date, following the decision by the Court of Appeal in another matter pertaining to the case.

That pending matter has to do with a decision made by Burnett in July 2013, which has been appealed by the prosecution. At that time, Burnett dismissed six charges brought against Frederick, on the grounds that the charges were defective.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Burnett said, “In making my findings and arriving at my conclusion, I have taken consideration of all the facts and circumstances in the case and have perused all the submissions of counsel.”

According to Burnett, when he discharged Frederick, after striking out the charges on submission, that was not an acquittal, since there had been no final adjudication in the matter.

Therefore, the magistrate said, bringing fresh charges against Frederick was a proper exercise of the statutory powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and did not amount to an abuse of process.

“I hold further that there are enough safeguards in the judicial system to ensure a fair trial of the accused. And if any issues of prejudice and unfairness arise, those are matters which would be properly addressed at the trial,” Burnett said.

The matter was adjourned sine die, pending the Court of Appeal’s decision in the pending matter.

After Burnett’s ruling, Frederick, who had been sitting on a chair in the dock, smiled, got up from her seat and walked out of the courtroom with her legal team.

Shortly after the ruling, defence attorney Keith Scotland said the legal team will explore their options when they have the magistrate’s written decision in their possession. Andrew Pilgrim, another member of Frederick’s defence team, said they will be able to respond to the ruling as early as next week. He noted that they look forward to hearing about the appeal, which he said is expected to be served on them soon.

“So, all these things are pending. We are just awaiting an opportunity to deal with those and make our submissions,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Colin John said the defence’s application was “baseless” and that the law had been correctly applied.

“I was always confident that I was going to succeed… I know the decision would have gone in my favour. I really think that the magistrate did the correct thing,” John said. John said the decision to prosecute was based on the code for prosecutors, and he thinks there is sufficient evidence to support and sustain the charges.

Frederick faces nine charges, which were brought against her in July 2013, hours after she was discharged in relation to six similar criminal charges at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.

The first six of the nine charges were brought under Section 96 of the Criminal Code, Chapter 171 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of SVG 2009, and are similar to the six she faced previously, except that they include particulars.

The charges are that she made a false declaration and swore falsely to a private criminal complaint on January 10, 2011, on May 23, 2012 and on June 16, 2011, under circumstances that the false declaration, if committed in a judicial proceeding would have amounted to perjury.

The three additional charges are that on January 10, 2011, May 23, 2012 and on June 16, 2011, at Kingstown and within the first magisterial district, with intent to mislead the court, Frederick fabricated evidence.

The charges all have to do with comments she alleged that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made on August 29, 2010 at Park Hill.

The last three charges were brought under section 101(a) of the Criminal Code, Chapter 171 of the laws of SVG 2009.

Present at the court on Wednesday in support of Frederick were Oppostion Leader Arnhim Eustace, lawyer Maia Eustace, member of Parliament for West Kingstown Daniel Cummings, Frederick’s father, Bayliss Frederick and other members of her family.