A prominent lawyer here has accused Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias of “upholding nonsense”.
Grant Connell’s outburst at the Serious Offences Court came on Monday, after the chief magistrate agreed to the request of senior prosecutor Adolphus Delpeche for the adjournment of a case involving one of his (Connell’s) clients.
Connell is representing 61-year-old businessman Adrian Deane, who has been charged with three indictable counts of engaging in trafficking of persons, between May 11 and September 30, 2015, at Brighton.
He first appeared in court on October 6, 2015 and was not allowed to plea to the charges.
When the case came up for hearing on Monday, Delpeche indicated that the case file had only recently been sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and asked for an adjournment.
Connell immediately objected, stressing that when Deane first appeared in court, Browne-Matthias had told the prosecution that she was giving them a lengthy adjournment to get their house in order.
The outspoken attorney accused the police at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of being lackadaisical.
He said his client has the label of ‘Human Trafficker’ above his head, which can affect his business.
Connell then said that the chief magistrate was “upholding nonsense”.
Seemingly annoyed by Connell’s outburst, Browne-Matthias sternly told him that she was operating within the given time period as stated in the guidelines and his client is “innocent until proven guilty”. She said that she was taking the word of the police regarding the location of the case file.
Following the adjournment, an angry Connell exited the courtroom.
When SEARCHLIGHT caught up with Connell, he said,“It’s been three months since the police arrested, charged him (Deane) for an offence of this magnitude and one would’ve thought that they will have their house in order.
“Three months after they’re just sending off the file… That’s somewhat of an abuse, but we just have to wait until the next adjourned date to see.”
Connell, however, added that he did not mean to offend the chief magistrate, but he thinks what happened is unfair to his client.
“It’s embarrassing, detrimental to his business, conditions of bail which he has to satisfy and this is an allegation,” he said.
“It’s an innocent man we’re dealing with.”
Connell said that the Chief Justice had laid out certain time-frames within which cases must be heard for them to be deemed fair. He admitted that the chief magistrate is acting within the rules, but sometimes, one should look at the bigger picture.
“You’re destroying a man’s life, you know? Human trafficking, it’s a big case. It’s the first of its kind in St Vincent and I trust they would have all their T’s crossed and their I’s dotted.”
Connell suggested that police officers should have everything organized before charging someone, then, “we’d have the case.”
“We see it all the time, police put the cart before the horse and when we do that, the obvious will happen,” he said.
“Officers of higher ranks, ASP and above, need to move from behind their desk where they just review and sign off on files to be reviewed by the office of the DPP,” he reiterated.
It is Connell’s view that senior officers need to get more involved in the actual conduct of the investigation of cases, which seemingly are being dumped on junior officers.
According to him, that the young officers usually take the blame when the case falls apart “that should not be, they need more proper investigation into matters and not just lock up people with a hope that evidence will fall from the heavens.”
Deane is currently on bail in the sum of $80,000, with one surety. He was charged under section 5 (1) of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act No. 27 of 2011.
He will reappear before the court on March 8, 2016. (AS)