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Crown makes application to have joint hearing for activists

Crown makes application to have joint hearing for activists
OPPOSITION Leader Dr Godwin Friday (^back -2nd from right), is pictured outside the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court last Friday, with activists (back from left) Adrianna King, Joseph DaSilva, Robert King, John Mofford and Kenson King. Forefront from left is Rohan Simmons, Colin Graham Tyrone James and lawyer Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell.

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While the prosecution attempted to save judicial time with the joining of the matters involving several defendants charged with organising and taking part in an unlawful public procession, the defence has rejected the idea saying among other things, that it feeds the prosecution’s narrative.

 Kenson King, Adriana King, John Mofford, Robert King, Rohan Simmons, Tyrone James, Collin Graham and Joseph DaSilva were summoned to the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court(KMC) last Friday, November 26 after crown counsel Renee Simmons asked that this be done. 

“On the last occasion the crown indicated its intention to make an application to the court to have all these matters heard together,” Simmons recalled to Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett. 

“The defendants are all alleged to have either participated in public procession or meeting or organising said procession,” she stated, “…The crown witnesses are the same, there is a nexus between all the matters.”

She cited a particular case that provided a basis for this being done in practice, “which allows the court to have the joint trial of multiple matters together in the interest of time your honour…”

The counsel concluded that “There is no prejudice accruing to any of the defendants, they are all represented by the same defence counsel, Miss Bacchus-Baptiste, Mr Israel Bruce, and that is the basis upon which the crown is making an application.”

However, counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who has oversight of the matters and on this occasion appeared in court with counsel Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell, said that the defence does not agree with all the matters being tried together. 

 She pointed out that the prosecution was in “contempt of court” because they hadn’t disclosure for all defendants (shown all relevant evidence in the cases) by the dates stipulated by the court. 

“It certainly is prejudicial to our clients not even knowing what is the evidence they have before them to agree to try all matters together,” she submitted.

The counsel also clarified that she and Bruce will not be the only lawyers representing the defendants. She said that she will have oversight of the matters but each defendant will have a different counsel, the arrangements for which are being finalised. 

“It is not in the interest of justice for our clients for the defendants to all be tried together in this particular matter, especially as it feeds into the narrative, it is like them admitting guilt. It feeds into the narrative that they were all organising some procession, which they were not,” Bacchus-Baptiste stated. 

She said that trying them together would be prejudicial. 

“But in any event, before we could even consider that, I need to see what is the evidence they have against the defendant. Even from some of the disclosure that we got, there’re some very troubling, troubling witness statements that we will raise when the time is right.”

Simmons noted that at that point there were only two counsels on record for the defendants, “but I do not see that as a deterrent for the matter not proceeding, there are just the extra attorneys in the court, each defendant would be able to have their point raised through their defence counsel.”

She explained that the prosecution hadn’t disclosed all matters but the two concerning Adriana and Kenson King, as their trial was scheduled weeks earlier than the others. 

The crown counsel suggested that a date for case management before the trial could be set when it comes to the issue of disclosure, and assured, “We intend to satisfy our duty to disclose.”

 “I am directly not in charge of said matter so I cannot give a timeframe on disclosure but it is always our intention and the defence is entitled to disclosure,” she said. 

However, she believed the defence’s reason to not accept a joinder as being without moment. 

Bacchus-Baptiste rebutted that she has failed to address the disclosure that they do not have. 

“You see the attitude is we are prosecution and we do what we like…” she argued. 

“…The court would say disclosure on such and such a date, they will choose to ignore it and have the gall to stand up here and say ‘well we only disclosed two, we didn’t do the others’… don’t apologise, say ‘I’m so sorry your honour, we should have disclosed’” the lawyer pointed out. 

Further, she highlighted that there are about five “of them” at the offices of the National Prosecution Service, but she is just one. 
Simmons stood and said that the crown apologises. 

“…If counsel is minded, because she is saying that based on the fact that she does not know the case that is before her for her current clients – If she is minded to have this matter case managed further after disclosure has been given, then the crown has no objection to that,” if that is her main issue the young counsel said. 

Bacchus-Baptiste emphasised that this is disregarding her issue “that their narrative is that all of these defendants were engaged in act of organising. It is highly prejudicial to try them all together.”

Simmons also directed the magistrate to a particular section of the criminal code. She said to show that it was not prohibited in this law, to join with the fact that it is accepted in practice. 

The court noted that the particular section also gave the judicial officer discretion. 

The magistrate stood the matter down for consideration. When he returned he revised the facts, including and highlighting that each defendant was separately charged, appeared on different dates, given different trial dates, and given different directions for disclosure. 

He then ruled that “Though the court appreciates the submission of saving judicial time, without the absence of consent,” and following the discretion of the section of law, “the court is of the view that the trial dates for each matter should remain the same. Accordingly, the court is not making an order for a joint trial in these matters.”

Kenson King’s matter was rescheduled to February 28, 2022, while teacher Adriana King will return to court on March 4, 2022. 

The dates for the other matters were not shifted. 

These defendants are charged with organising and attending public processions/meetings on various dates, which were in contravention of the Public Order Act. Adriana King has also been charged with an offence of obstructing the Prime Minister from going to the precincts of the House of Assembly on August 5. 

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