Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett has expressed his displeasure at a “classic case of playing the system” in a matter that came before his court.
Burnett made his feelings known last Friday at the Kingstown Magistrate in a case in which Andy Baptiste was to be sentenced for stealing EC$14,346 in mobile phone credit from Digicel (SVG) Ltd.
Baptiste, who was represented by counsel Roderick Jones, had, two days earlier, pleaded guilty to a charge that he committed the offence at Walvaroo between May 11, 2016 and May 13, 2017.
Crown Counsel Renee Simmons appeared for the prosecution.
When the matter was called, Jones asked that the charge be put to his client again.
Baptiste then entered a not guilty plea.
Simmons said that the Crown had no objection to bail.
At this point, the senior magistrate said he wanted to comment on the matter.
“Now, this is what I do not like,” Burnett said.
He pointed out that the case entered the court system on Nov. 25, 2020, at which time, counsel Grant Connell was representing Baptiste.
The court set a trial date for June 2, 2021.
On that date, “there was no Mr. Connell; Mr. Jones made an appearance for the defendant,” Burnett pointed out.
The senior magistrate said that the prosecution was ready to proceed with the matter.
Further, a former employee of Digicel (SVG) Ltd. who, Burnett was advised, had come from overseas because of the case, was also present.
However, Jones asked for an adjournment, which the court denied.
The lawyer then asked for the charge to be read to the defendant, who pleaded guilty.
Also on June 2, Jones asked for sentencing to be done on that same day, but there was no current employee of Digicel present, so Baptiste was remanded in custody until Friday for sentencing.
“On today’s date, here we are and look what we are facing,” Burnett said, adding that he was sure that the former employee of Digicel had left the country.
“Why do we play the system like this? This is a clear case of playing the system. I am not going to pretend. We have to do better than this … This is a classic case of playing the system. And having regard for how this matter is playing out in front of me, I do not appreciate this.”
Burnett said that assuming that the former employee of Digicel who came to SVG because of the case had left the country, the question arose of who would pay for another trip to St. Vincent to testify in the case.
Burnett said that if it were possible for him to impose cost in the matter, he would have done so.
“I don’t like this. We know better than this,” Burnett said.
“Yes we do,” Simmons commented.
“This is a classic case of playing the system and when we do that, we make a mockery of the judicial system.”
Burnett said he was recusing himself from the matter and transferring it to a different magistrate.
The matter was transferred to Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court for hearing on July 12.