The wounding/assault matters involving Unity Labour Party (ULP) Senator, Ashelle Morgan, and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Karim Nelson, will most likely commence tomorrow, and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have been set aside to facilitate the hearing.
However, before the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court begins the trial, Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP) Sejilla McDowall has expressed her discontent, on behalf of the Office of the DPP, that counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste would be allowed to participate “in the way that she thinks she is entitled to participate”.
Bacchus-Baptiste holds a ‘watching brief’ in the matters against the Assistant DPP and the Senator, meaning she is not directly involved as counsel, but is acting in an observer-like role. She is also the defence counsel for Cornelius John, who is the alleged victim in this matter, but defendant in a case of alleged threatening language to the Senator on the date in question, April 13.
The DPP was the first to speak last Friday, November 5.
She revealed that she had, by way of correspondence to the court, requested a rescheduling in order for the matter to be completed in one sitting.
The DPP reminded that it was previously indicated that overseas prosecutors would be handling the matter.
“…So to ensure that the matter does not proceed part-heard we made a request to the court, which the court would have administratively approved,” she outlined.
The DPP invited the court to engage defence counsel to ensure that the defence are in agreement with the dates that had been put to them.
Counsel Ronald Marks represents Nelson, and he was on Friday holding papers for counsel Duane Daniel, who represents Morgan.
McDowall assured that the prosecution is ready to proceed on 10th , 11th and 12th November. The last of these days, November 12, is considered to be a ‘grace period’.
Marks asked that the proceedings begin at 11:a.m on Thursday as he has a part-heard matter before Justice Esco Henry at the High Court.
“As far as I know the virtual complainant (John) was never consulted concerning these dates, nor I,” Bacchus-Baptiste stated before Magistrate Bertie Pompey.
She also said that her client has a fixture before the Biabou Magistrate’s Court on November 12 (concerning the threatening language charge against him).
“The DPP represents the virtual complainant…”, the lawyer posited.
“I know I am only holding a watching brief in this, but the virtual complainant is at a loss because he did not know that these dates were rescheduled…” and because of the conflicting dates, she said.
However, Bacchus-Baptiste went on to say that she did receive word from her Office that morning that an email requesting the rescheduling of the November 12 matter involving John as a defendant had been sent to them, “…but I’m only now seeing that email.”
Ultimately, the DPP rose, noting: “Your honour if I may. I am troubled, I have been troubled for some time and I try to be slow to speech…”
McDowall informed the court that she has told counsel Bacchus-Baptiste in writing, “and I will say it expressly”, “that the standing of a counsel who holds a watching brief- I don’t even know legitimately what the foundation is in this Eastern Caribbean jurisdiction.”
“It does not entitle her to affect the scheduling of a matter in which she is neither prosecutor or defence counsel.”
The DPP said that “of course” Bacchus-Baptiste can indicate that she is representing the interest of John, but noted that the counsel is not supposed to be “intimately involved” in the proceedings.
“And before it gets out of hand when the matter starts on the 10th and continues thereafter, I wish to state the discontentment on the part of the office of the DPP that Mrs Bacchus-Baptiste would be allowed or permitted to be participating in the way that she thinks she is entitled to participate.”
She also sought to correct Bacchus-Baptiste in saying that she represents John, and clarified that the Prosecutorial Service represents no witness.
“What we do is that we make ourselves available as officers of the court to ensure that the evidence that they intend to give to the court, it is facilitated.”
Typically, witnesses do not direct the flow of the case, she said.
McDowall indicated that in terms of the scheduling for the other matter, this will depend on representation of counsel.
Bacchus-Baptiste also rose, stating, “…I don’t know why my learned friend is so upset. I have held watching briefs for over 20 years in this court and it’s the first time I’m seeing the police so upset or the prosecution so upset…” as it concerns a watching brief.
“Because normally if you’re holding a watching brief you are assisting their case,” she commented.
Nonetheless, the lawyer said that she believed the DPP misunderstood her.
“…What if Cornelius John has a serious medical appointment on the 10th, I was simply saying that you would at least find out. You don’t fix the fixture and then find out on the 10th that he can’t turn up because there’s a medical appointment, that is all I was saying.”
It was not a case where she was saying that she had to be informed, the lawyer clarified.
“So I was just trying to avoid that conflict so there’s no reason to get upset Madam. I don’t want to usurp your responsibility, I just want to assist that’s all,” she concluded.
The magistrate said that at the end of the day the buck stops with him, and he has management of the proceedings.
John was outside of the courtroom sitting on a stool that presumably he had taken with him. Pompey asked that he be called into the courtroom. He then informed the Diamond businessman that the matter had been adjourned to November 10.
The DPP also made a request that the proceedings be moved to the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court. This court usually sits on Mondays and Tuesdays, so the space should be free for the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court to occupy it for the rest of the week.
Therefore, the trial is set to begin at Calliaqua tomorrow. It will examine whether Morgan is guilty of assaulting John with intent to commit the offence of wounding, and it will look into whether Nelson is guilty of unlawful and malicious wounding, as well as the unlawful discharge of a firearm.
John has been nursing a gunshot wound to the leg since April, and had to use crutches to walk for some time.
While there were originally three charges against John of use of threatening language on April 13 in Diamond, John’s wife appeared at court on August 20 and said that she did not want to proceed with the two charges against her husband that list her as the complainant.