Reporting on the case involving Government Senator Ashelle Morgan and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP) Karim Nelson has been placed on hold until the trial is completed.
That was the decision of the court conveyed at yesterday’s second day of the trial into allegations of assault with intent to wound against Morgan; and unlawful and malicious wounding, unlawful discharge of a firearm against Nelson.
Before proceedings commenced at 11:a.m, Journalist Kenton Chance of iWitness News was spoken to by St Lucia’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, S.Stephen Brette, who is prosecuting.
At the time, iWitness was the only news outlet to have reported on the case but others including SEARCHLIGHT,had been present on Wednesday with the intention of doing the same.
Shortly after their discussion, Brette and the defence lawyers Ronald Marks and Duane Daniel, withdrew for a meeting with the Magistrate Bertie Pompey.
Following this, at the start of proceedings, the Magistrate said that he had something to address concerning press reporting.
He invited Chance to come forward, which he did, standing in the area for witnesses.
The magistrate said that it had been brought to his attention that there had been a publication on iWitness.
Chance asked what publication he was referring to.
Officers of the court clarified that it was articles the journalist had written detailing evidence given by two witnesses who took the stand the day before.
It was noted that there will be several witnesses in the trial, and they did not want the witnesses to tailor their evidence based on what was reported. The magistrate noted that the information can be reported at the end of the trial.
Chance queried regarding the right of the public, and the magistrate noted that it is also owed to the public that there is a fair trial.
The editor of iWitnessNews said that he had reported on a number of cases before the court, including those presided over by Magistrate Pompey, and it was the first time that he was being told this. However, Chance added that if the court is saying he cannot report then he will comply, and means no disrespect.
The magistrate said that it hadn’t been brought to his attention when he adjudicated in previous matters but
Chance pointed out that he wasn’t the only journalist who does this.
He was told that it is important to be careful with the detail at this juncture.
Counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste who has a ‘watching brief’ said that she understands the issue, but also added that she wouldn’t want the ruling to become a precedent.
The prosecution rose to clarify that they are asking that the journalist not report on the evidence verbatim, remarking that Chance’s notes may even have been better than his. The prosecutor said it defeats the purpose of asking witnesses to step outside when they discuss certain matters.
The iWitness journalist/editor said that he appreciates the commendation, but that his notes were not verbatim and restated his intention to be guided by the court’s decision, before taking his seat.
It has also been mentioned that is could be possible that a mistrial could be declared if detailed reporting is done at this stage of the proceedings.