The court has found a protester guilty of causing an obstruction and failing to move his vehicle during the August 5, 2021 protests, but it has acquitted him for failing to give his name to a police officer.
Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne handed down the decision at the Serious Offences Court (SOC) on Wednesday, February 23 and defendant, Ken Findlay of Belair paid a fine of $450 and left the premises. Had he not paid the sum forthwith, a prison term of two weeks would have taken effect.
No sooner had the words of conviction and sentence left the magistrate’s lips, than Findlay’s lawyer, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, said that she was going to appeal the two matters on which her client had been convicted. Namely, that on August 5, at Halifax Street, he failed to removed his vehicle, HW661, when requested by a police officer in uniform to do so, when placed in a position likely to cause obstruction to traffic. Further, that he did wilfully allow his vehicle to stand on such road so as to cause unnecessary obstruction to the free flow of traffic.
One week prior, the defence lawyer had delivered forceful submissions at the end of the trial. During her submissions on February 16, Bacchus-Baptiste focused on the evidence of Prosecutor, Sergeant Kenny Jones’ main witness, the Commissioner of Police (COP), Colin John.
She compared it to the contradicting evidence of the defendant, his girlfriend, Odette John and defence witness, Adriana King.
Bacchus-Baptiste also wanted a video that King filmed to be shown in court, but she was unsuccessful in her bid
to do so.
“This video would have shown the amount that day in the street. But we didn’t need the video to show that. Miss Adriana King told you that she couldn’t even walk down backstreet because of the number of people and policemen that were in the road that day,” the lawyer argued.
She recalled that King gave evidence that there were a number of police officers surrounding Findlay’s van at the protest.
“Why is it the Commissioner of Police could not get a single officer to support his case?” the lawyer questioned, “Not a single officer to come and say ‘yes we asked Ken Findlay his name and he refused’. ‘Yes he told him to move the van and the van could have been moved and he refused’. No.”
She added, “This busy Commissioner of Police choose to spend two days in court on this simple traffic matter. And when I asked him if he had other witnesses, he didn’t know, maybe they had other witnesses, he didn’t know,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“He is the Commissioner and he didn’t know. I asked him about photographs, he didn’t know. Videos, he didn’t know. Yet, he wants this court…”, despite their contradicting evidence, “just to take his word and convict a man in a criminal court?”
The lawyer then turned to address specifically the charge of failing to remove the vehicle which was causing an obstruction.
“Clearly from the evidence of all defence witnesses, the defendant could not move his vehicle because he was hemmed in. Clearly from the evidence of the Commissioner himself, traffic was already diverted…” she told the Chief Magistrate.
Bacchus-Baptiste submitted that there was no obstruction that day, nor was Findlay likely to cause an obstruction.
In addressing the charge of wilfully allowing his vehicle to stand so as to obstruct the free flow of traffic, Bacchus-Baptiste commented that: “This is not a man just park up in the middle of the road as the police would have you believe when he addressed you, that he just decided to park up there.
“..They left home that morning about 12 vans to join the protest. They drove around Kingstown and then they stopped in front of the protest for a long time, must be more than two hours. The police themselves cordoned off the traffic…” the lawyer said.
She further submitted that the charge must fail and that Findlay did not wilfully obstruct the free flow of traffic.
In terms of the charge of failure to give his name and address to the police, the lawyer revised that Findlay and his girlfriend “categorically gave the evidence that the Commissioner never asked him to give his name.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said that, as per her client, the COP and Findlay are from Belair, have picnicked together and know each other already so that the Commissioner does not have to ask him for his name.
Altogether the lawyer argued that the police had not been able to satisfy the court beyond a reasonable doubt.
The decision was reserved, and fixed for February 23.