From the Courts
September 16, 2016
Magistrate Browne recuses herself from Nice Radio boss’s case

Another Magistrate has made the decision to recuse themselves from hearing a case which involves proprietor of Nice Radio Douglas ‘Dougie’ DeFreitas.

DeFreitas faces numerous charges for allegedly making false statements that were likely to cause fear or alarm or to disturb the peace on December 10, 2015,the day after the general elections.

Earlier this year, magistrate of the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court Bertie Pompey{{more}} recused himself from DeFreitas’s case, stating that he has a civil matter in which the radio personality is involved.

On Tuesday, following Pompey’s decision, magistrate of the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court Zoila Ellis-Browne stepped down from hearing the case after an application was submitted by DeFreitas’ lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste.

Bacchus-Baptiste argued that the matter is a highly political case and there is a real possibility for bias, because of Ellis-Browne’s marriage to former Member of Parliament for the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) Michael ‘Mike’ Browne.

In a letter dated September 9, sent to the magistrate from Bacchus-Baptiste’s chambers, she referred to an interview which the former assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin John had with the media, where he is quoted as saying that there are several magistrates who could be affiliated to a political party, thus making the allegation of bias “frivolous and stupid”.

Bacchus-Baptiste said, “While previous political association should not disqualify a magistrate, the public expressions of the Assistant DPP and highly charged political environment we live in makes it imperative that the defendants and the general public feel justice is seen to be done. A fair minded and informed observer in St Vincent and the Grenadines would feel that a real possibility exists for bias.

“In all these circumstances the fair minded observer would view your dear husband’s close association to the ruling ULP to be continuing enough to give rise to a grave doubt that justice will be pure. This is particularly important since there is no jury, you are the judge and jury,” she added.

Prosecutor for the Crown Karim Nelson stated, however, that in his opinion Bacchus-Baptiste misquoted the former assistant DPP, and what John meant was that persons would make political connections, no matter who takes the case.

Nelson stated that although he would need more time to fully review the recusal letter sent by Bacchus-Baptiste, fair-minded observers in SVG would say there is no possibility of bias.

The prosecutor further pointed out that Michael Browne has not been in the Parliament for over five years, thus making his political preference unknown. Nelson stated that in the circumstances he does not think there is any real possibility of bias.

After standing down the matter for 10 minutes to review the documents presented, magistrate Ellis-Browne decided to transfer the matter to Ricky Burnette at the Biabou Magistrate’s Court, where it would be heard on September 30.

The letter penned to Ellis-Browne by Bacchus-Baptiste also requested her recusal from a case where politician for the New Democratic Party Benjamin Exeter and Shabazaah George are charged with assault and resisting arrest, and obstruction and possession of an offensive weapon, respectively.

Pompey had also recused himself from this matter on June 20 and it was then transferred to the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court.

Ellis-Browne stated that she had already made her decision in relation to Exeter’s case, hinting that it would also be a recusal. However, she indicated that her decision would be made official when Exeter appears before her later this month. (AS)