The first case brought under St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ controversial cybercrime law ended on Tuesday, with the prosecution withdrawing the charges.
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche withdrew the charges against Catisha Pierre-Jack, of Lower Questelles.
The prosecutor made the decision shortly after defence counsel, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste asked Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, sitting at the Serious Offences Court, to dismiss the charges.
The charges stem from posts that Pierre-Jack admitted to making about her older sister, Crystal Pierre on Facebook on Jan. 30, 2018.
When the case was called, the chief magistrate said she had a problem hearing the matter as she knows the complainant very well.
However, defence counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said there were different issues with the matter, noting that it had been transferred from the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
The chief magistrate said that Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett had recused himself from further hearing in the case.
“She herself recused herself from the matter — the virtual complainant,” the lawyer, Bacchus-Baptiste said.
She said she was not sure whether the court was aware that the complainant had written a letter to the court saying that she had no intention of proceeding with the matter.
“She apologised … in her own handwriting,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding that she didn’t know why the case was still on the list for hearing.
The lawyer asked that the matter be dismissed.
Pierre did not attend court on Monday.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that on the last occasion Pierre did not attend court and she sent the letter.
The chief magistrate then asked Delplesche if he had seen the letter and the prosecutor responded that he was withdrawing the matter.
“That’s what I came to do; withdraw it,” Delplesche said.
He told the court that it was only that morning that he was made aware of the development in the case.
On Feb. 12, 2018, history was created in SVG when Pierre-Jack pleaded guilty to four counts of libel by electronic communication, the first such charges brought under the cybercrime law, which was enacted in 2016 amidst local, regional and international outcry.
Pierre-Jack, who did not have a lawyer, was booked in relation to four posts she admitted to having made on the social networking website, Facebook on Jan. 30, 2018 about Pierre.
She pleaded guilty to the charges when she was arraigned before Burnett, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
Pierre-Jack told the court that while she had made the posts, the contents complained of are true.
She was facing a penalty of up to EC$50,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
Burnett adjourned the matter to Feb. 16, 2018 for facts and sentencing so he could familiarise himself with the legislation.
He said that he needed some time to do some research on the law, noting that it was the first time that such a matter was being brought before the court.
But at what was supposed to be the sentencing hearing, Pierre-Jack came to court saying she had retained Bacchus-Baptiste as her lawyer and changed her pleas to not guilty.
In a letter, Bacchus-Baptiste, who was not present in court, told the senior magistrate that her client had pleaded guilty because Police Corporal May, who investigated the matter, had advised her to do so.
Burnett said that he found the allegation disturbing and would order an investigation.
There were further adjournments in the matter, including because Pierre was pregnant and indisposed.
If what was posted was true, then there is no case. Is there anything about free speech in the constitution in SVG? Are there any similarity with this case and the one brought against [the woman] […] who was sent to the crazy house?
I am sure the sisters didn’t want family issues to be brought into the open and called off the case – a pretty wise move. This still leaves Vincentians in the dark about the controversial cybercrime law.
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