The prosecution has informed the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court that it wishes to amend the 12 charges brought against radio broadcaster Douglas De Freitas relating to comments he allegedly made on air after the December 2015 general elections.
In August 2016, De Freitas was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to 12 counts that on Dec. 10, 2015, at Dorsetshire Hill, he made a number of statements that were “likely to cause fear or alarm or to disturb the public peace”, contrary to section 64(1) of the Criminal Code.
At the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Monday, defence counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste told the court that she is still asking that the magistrate Rickie Burnett recuse himself and that the ballot boxes be brought to court if the matter goes to trial.
Then-Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams, had denied the request from the defence counsel, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste that access to the ballot boxes be provided as part of her defence of her client.
Bacchus-Baptiste’s application for the magistrate to recuse himself is based on comments that then-Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin John, had made in an interview with the media in June 2016.
John’s comment came after Magistrate Bertie Pompey recused himself, mid-trial, from the case in which opposition politician Ben Exeter was being tried on charges of resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and carrying a (licensed) gun to a public meeting.
Magistrate Bertie Pompey cannot hear the matter because he has a lawsuit against De Freitas before the court and Magistrate Zoila Ellis-Browne has recused herself from hearing the matter as her husband, Mike Browne, is a former minister in the ruling Unity Labour Party administration.
Dominican Senior Counsel, Anthony Astaphan, one of the main lawyers representing the government in the two election petitions brought after the December 2015 polls, has suggested that the charges against De Freitas be discontinued.
When the matter came up for case management on Monday, Bacchus-Baptiste told the court that she has made certain submissions to the court, including an application for disclosure, which the prosecution has steadfastly refused.
She said she was yet to receive a response to her request for certain disclosures, adding that with a new prosecutor, Karim Nelson, handling the matter, she does not know if the response would be the same.
The lawyer said that should the magistrate decide to not recuse himself, there is still the matter of her application that the ballot boxes be brought to court, adding that the charges touch and concern “very, very distinctly the ballot boxes.
“You can’t charge somebody for saying certain things about the ballot boxes that is not true but you don’t want to show the ballot boxes. That is totally unfair; completely unfair,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
She said that most of the 12 charges have to do with the security of the ballot boxes.
“And the law is clear about how ballot boxes are to be secured. There are photographs out there to show that indeed, the ballot boxes were not properly secured.”
She said that the Crown is resisting the application to produce the ballot boxes but is also not willing to drop the charges.
The magistrate said that the submission that he recuse himself has to be ventilated in court.
He gave Nelson until May 1 to file a written submission in response to Bacchus-Baptiste’s application that he recuse himself.
Nelson told the court that the Crown is making an application to amend each charge, noting that each charge alleges that De Freitas made comments, which are “likely to cause fear, alarm, or disturb the public peace.
He said the prosecutor would like to excise “fear” and “or disturb the public peace”.
“So it should read, ‘which is likely to cause alarm’,” Nelson said, adding that this relates to all 12 charges.
The magistrate said that when the matter comes back before him, he would make that amendment and put the charges to De Freitas again.
Bacchus-Baptiste told the court that her client has to be out of the state for an extended period of time for medical reasons.
The matters were, therefore, adjourned to May 17.