The lawyer who represented opposition politician, Ben Exeter, in the cases that were thrown out on Monday, had asked the magistrate who made that decision not to hear the case.
The lawyer, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, told iWitness News on Monday that she had written to Magistrate Ricky Burnett last Friday, asking him to recuse himself.
Bacchus-Baptiste based her application on comments that then Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin John, had made in an interview with the media in June after Magistrate Bertie Pompey recused himself, mid-trial, following an application by Bacchus-Baptiste at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
Pompey granted Bacchus-Baptiste’s application to recuse himself in light of comments he made from the bench, which the lawyer said amounted to the magistrate giving evidence.
After the magistrate’s decision, which John had objected to, the prosecutor, who is now acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, had wondered which magistrate could then hear the case.
He said that if it were sent before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias, the defence would have argued that she is sister of Minister of Health, Sen. Luke Browne, who was the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) candidate in East Kingstown.
John also noted that Calliaqua magistrate, Zoila Ellis-Browne, is wife of former ULP minister, Mike Browne.
But when asked about Burnett, he said that might be the magistrate that the defence would want.
“I thought that those comments were definitely insinuating and unfair and by doing that, he made it impossible to find a magistrate in St. Vincent to hear it, and, maybe that is what they wanted to do,” Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News on Monday.
Exeter, the main opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) candidate for Central Leeward, was charged that on Dec. 29, 2015 at Kingstown, he did assault police corporal Cuthbert Morris, acting in the due execution of his duty, contrary to section 196 of the Criminal Code.
He was also charged that on Dec. 29, at Kingstown, he did resist the arrest of Morris, acting in the due execution of his duty, contrary to Section 196 of the Criminal Code.
He was further charged that on Dec. 29, at Kingstown, he did assault Granville De Freitas of Chester Cottage, causing actual bodily harm, contrary to section 193 of the Criminal Code.
Exeter and Shabazaah GunMunro George, a student and NDP activist, were arrested in Kingstown on Dec. 29, 2015 on the sidelines of an opposition protest where the ceremonial opening of Parliament was taking place.
George was charged that on Dec. 29 at Kingstown, he did obstruct Cuthbert Morris, Corporal 362, acting in due execution of his duty, contrary to section 196 of Criminal Code.
He was further charged that on the said day at Kingstown, without lawful excuse in a public place, to wit the Criminal Investigations Department, had in his possession an offensive weapon, to wit a zapper, contrary to section 76(1) of the criminal code.
On Monday, Bacchus-Baptiste noted to iWitness News that while all the virtual complainants in the cases against her client were police officers and that Pompey is a retired deputy commissioner of police, she did not object to his hearing the case merely on those grounds.
He was objected to based on comments he made from the bench during the trial, she said.
“But the other two, I would have objected to based on their ULP affiliation because I am convinced that this was just a political matter.
“And, it was because of the comments of the [Assistant] DPP that caused me to ask Mr. Burnett to decline. I don’t think that any magistrate should be put in a position that if he decides one way or the other, half the population would say it’s bias and that is what Mr. John, it looks like, he was setting it up to be. I don’t think any magistrate should be placed in that position. Very unfair to him,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
The magistrate, however, did not have to hear Bacchus-Baptiste’s application in court. Neither the prosecutor nor any of the virtual complainants turned up for Monday’s court hearing and Bacchus-Baptiste asked the magistrate to dismiss the matters for want of prosecution, which he did.