A lawyer who has asked a Senior Magistrate to recuse himself from presiding over certain court matters, has clarified that his application was not “personal.”
Defence Counsel Grant Connell appeared at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court yesterday for a trial involving two young men who were charged during the time when newly appointed Senior Magistrate Colin John was still the Commissioner of Police (CoP)
When the men appeared in court last week, Connell suggested that John recuse himself from presiding over the trial of his clients, and over any other matter that had been brought before the court, while he was serving as the chief police officer.
Yesterday, December 18, when Connell appeared again before the Senior Magistrate, he made it clear that his submissions are not “bias or prejudice,” but “it’s about perception”.
“This is not a Colin John thing, I want to make that clear,” Connell emphasised.
“I have to reiterate my submissions is not personal…This is no question of competence…I’m not asking that you remove yourself as Magistrate,” he continued.
John assured Counsel that he never thought his submissions were personal.
The Senior Magistrate and the defence attorney agreed that additional details on the relationship between the Senior Magistrate and virtual complainant be provided by the first week in January.
A response to Connell’s submission will then be provided.
These submissions were made following concerns raised by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association in a November 30, 2023 letter to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC).
One day before John was sworn in, President of the Bar Association Shirlan M Barnell wrote in a letter to the JLSC, “We estimate that over 95 per cent of criminal matters brought in the Magistrate’s court involve the Commissioner of Police as complainant. Given the delays in the system, most of the matters brought over the last four years will still be pending.”
She continued, “In that capacity, he will likely be presiding over criminal matters filed in his name over the last four years and hearing evidence from his colleagues and subordinates, which can lead to criminal convictions.”
The JLSC said in response that the matter will be investigated.