Attorney Grant Connell livid over PS comment in court
Left to Right: Nerissa Gittens-McMillan, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Mobilisation & Grant Connell, defence attorney
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August 25, 2020
Attorney Grant Connell livid over PS comment in court

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Mobilisation caused a disruption at the court yesterday, after she apparently called a defense counsel an “evil man” when she walked past him.

Yesterday, August 24, was the continuation of the preliminary inquiry examining the prosecution evidence in support of multiple charges against Learie Johnson and Derville Thomas, related to the theft of public assistance funds.

Lawyer Grant Connell, who is representing Johnson, had just finished cross examining Permanent Secretary Nerissa Gittens-McMillan, a witness for the prosecution, when the incident in question occurred.

While moving around the Bar table to sign a document following her evidence, the Permanent Secretary is said to have made the “utterance”.

Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne indicated that she had not heard anything, and the counsel submitted that he had been told that he was an “evil man” by the Permanent Secretary.

Connell said that he wouldn’t accept an apology from Gittens-McMillan, while the magistrate stated that the defence counsel had a job to do.

“A Permanent Secretary should know better,” the angry lawyer emphasized. The counsel noted that he was very calm

when he was cross examining the Permanent Secretary, and didn’t use any provoking methods.

He commented that it was disrespectful, and remarked that another counsel in the court had laughed.

The magistrate stated that she really wasn’t pleased.

Gittens-McMillan, who said little to nothing but made a few gestures and expressions, left the courtroom after signing the document.

The case continued after the Permanent Secretary had left, but the counsel still appeared upset.

The magistrate noted that she was “ticked off” and didn’t find it funny. “I didn’t hear it at all,” she added.

Connell remarked that the Permanent Secretary had come into his personal space when she suddenly spoke to him, and that if he had slapped her, he would have been in the right.

“And she ought to have known better,” the lawyer reiterated, adding that it was in very poor taste.

The Permanent Secretary was just one of a number of witnesses that the prosecution called yesterday. The court heard from the relatives of a number of persons who are now deceased but were at one point in time collecting public assistance funds.

At end of the preliminary inquiry, the magistrate will determine whether there is evidence for Johnson and Thomas to stand trial at the High Court.

The two accused men have multiple charges. Thomas is charged many times over for allegedly making false instruments so as to induce Learie Johnson of Lowmans Windward to accept them as genuine, in order to commit an act so as to prejudice the Government. He is the accused of using these instruments, which were in the names of Sylvia Roberts, Geoffrey Lavia, Camellia James, Clifford Huggins, Bernice Cordice, Thaddeus Baptiste, Irma Nanton, Calvin Lavia, John Lavia, Victoria Baptiste, Rudolph Williams and Leonora Baptiste: some of who are deceased.

Likewise, Johnson has multiple charges that he did that he did make and use false instruments with the intention of inducing the Government to accept them as genuine and by so doing, commit an act so as to prejudice the Government.

Both men are charged that they did conspire with one another to steal $2,725 in cash, the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Jointly they are charged with stealing $2,475, the property of the government of SVG, and through deception dishonestly obtaining $250, the property of Irma Nanton of Owia with intent to permanently deprive.

All offences were allegedly committed on February 7, 2018 at Owia.