The lawyer representing the Lowmans Hill couple charged with eight counts of illegal possession of guns and ammunition has objected to the police displaying the weapon and ammunition at a press conference.
The couple, Randy Shallow and Freikesha Douglas, each pleaded not guilty to each of the charges when they appeared before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias at the Serious Offences Court on Friday and were each granted EC$45,000 bail.
Their lawyer, Grant Connell, told the court that he has followed closely in a local newspaper what Commissioner of Police Renold Hadaway showed the public.
The defence counsel was referring to the press conference that Hadaway had on Wednesday at which she spoke about the discovery of the guns and ammunition in a raid of a house in Lowmans Hill that day.
“We operate in a land of laws,” Connell said, describing the police chief’s actions as an “escapade”, adding that exhibits that had not yet been seen by the court had gone to a “court of trial of public opinion”.
He said this happened even before the weapons were tagged with evidence tags.
“This pre-trial publicity cannot be fair to these two good Vincentians.”
Connell said he appreciates that the commissioner of police wants to improve the public image of the constabulary “as if they are being effective”.
He, however, said that in so doing, the police “cannot sacrifice justice”, adding, “We cannot appear to be at war with our own citizens”.
Connel said the exhibits are supposed to have a certain chain of custody.
“Do the jefes in the police force [not] know what they are doing?” he said, adding that lawyers have expressed their opinions and the development is a manifestation “of where the police are at”.
He said someone was in custody in connection with the weapons and even before their lawyer could reach for an interview, the police went on “a frolic of your own and sacrificed justice”.
Connell asked how are his clients supposed to get a fair trail when the coverage is all over Facebook.
He said the situation is “an embarrassment”.
“What else can I come to this honourable court and tell you, your honour. If you haven’t seen the exhibits, look them here,” he said and held up a copy of The Vincentian newspaper.
He said the magistrate is human and would see the coverage.
Connell said he could comment “on certain things.
“The issue of possession. When they go low, I go high,” he said.
“And I will remain silent,” said Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche, a former inspector of police.
The chief magistrate said that it should be established that persons before the court are innocent until proven guilty.
“And we ought to be more careful in how matters that are before the court are dealt with,” she said, adding that she would expect everyone involved in the legal process to know how these things are to be dealt with.
“We cannot try persons in the public,” the magistrate said, adding that, thankfully, the matter would be dealt in the court, where she knows that the accused are innocent until proven guilty and that it is for the prosecution to prove their case and defence counsel to do their job.
The chief magistrate said it is “most unfortunate” when events like Wednesday’s press conference happen, adding that it is a poor reflection on those who should know better.
“So, if you know better, I want us to do better,” she said.
She said the issue of pre-trial publicity “is a very, very sensitive and serious matter”.
The chief magistrate assured each defendant that the court will look at each charge on its merit, adding that if after the trial the decision is guilty or not guilty, that is the decision that the court makes based on the fact presented “here” — a reference to the court.