Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias on Wednesday, for the second time this week, expressed displeasure with the conduct of some police officers in relation to their obligations to the court.
“When you have a responsibility to ensure that something is done, you don’t leave it alone. You delegate and you pass it on, but you have to follow up and make sure that it is done because at the end of the day, you have to come to report. You can’t say I sent the summonses to Mespo. Follow up that they are executed,” she said at the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown.
The magistrate’s comments came after the court heard that summonses for witnesses in a matter were still on a desk at the Mesopotamia Police Station a week after they were sent there for execution.
They were for witnesses to testify in a matter in which Lazika Richards is charged with possession of a firearm and wounding.
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche had told the court about the status of the summonses.
“That is how we are. And no feathers are being ruffled. Everybody is nice and cosy,” said Delplesche, a former police officer, who is, at times, critical of the way in which his former colleagues execute their duties.
Delplesche said he empathises with the aggrieved parties in these types of matters.
“As I always say, my heart goes out to the virtual complainants who sought to go the right way by going through the legal system, reporting the matter, which is the requirement of the law, but, after that, everybody nice and dandy. Nothing happens after that.”
He said the summonses were still at the police station one week later.
The magistrate said that she did not know whether she should comment, adding that if she said something it might not be appropriate.
Browne-Matthias said the problem she has is that in an effort to manage the court schedule, she inquires as to the readiness of the matters before the court “for today, for tomorrow, for the remainder of the week”.
The chief magistrate said she is not one who would just get up on a particular day and come to court. “I have to prepare.”
She said that there was no disclosure in a matter and then summonses were not served in another that was scheduled to be heard that day.
“So how could you be ready if these preliminary things are not done? And it is just a waste of a court’s day,” she said, adding that many other trials could have been slotted into the day.
“That is why I seek constantly — maybe you would think it is micromanaging — ‘Are we ready?’
“‘Yes, we are ready, everything is dandy.’ And today, I am hearing this,” the chief magistrate said.
Browne-Matthias said the situation was very upsetting, adding that a cursory follow-up call would have sorted out the situation.
“When are you going to next check? The day of court? When are you going to check that the disclosure hasn’t been complied with or hasn’t been done? To come and tell me in court this morning?
“Nothing new. Nothing new,” the chief magistrate said.
The magistrate said that on the last occasion when the matter was called, a sergeant had said that he would be on vacation but would make himself available.
She pointed out that the sergeant, who was, in fact, on vacation, had turned up at court on Wednesday for the matter, but the other witnesses were not summoned.
Roderick Jones, the defence counsel in the matter, told the chief magistrate that he was happy that she understands the frustration of counsel.
He said that when counsel leave their chambers to come to court and the prosecution is not ready, it is also a waste of attorneys’ time.
Jones said he was asking the chief magistrate to ensure that the matter is appropriately dealt with from her chambers.
“I would definitely do so,” the chief magistrate said.
“You enjoy the rest of your day,” the lawyer said, just before leaving.
“I don’t know about that,” the chief magistrate responded.
As a result of the development, the hearing had to be adjourned to April 18.
Wednesday’s development came two days after the magistrate expressed displeasure with the fact that police in Calliaqua had executed a bench warrant on a man but had released him without bringing him to court.
The man, who has missed his court hearings, did not appear on Monday either, when the matter was called, triggering the chief magistrate’s stern words.
The magistrate said that the situation obtains even as the man is seen regularly at his residence.