Magistrate Bertie Pompey’s status as a retired deputy police chief makes him even more suitable to adjudicate the trial of the ex-cop charged with stealing guns and ammunition from the Georgetown Police Station, a prosecutor, who is also a police officer, argued on Thursday.
Prosecutor Corporal of Police Charles was responding to an application by defence counsel Grant Connell that Pompey transfer the case to another magistrate.
The lawyer further reasoned that the trial was being held where the crimes allegedly took place: at the Georgetown Police Station.
Colonarie Magistrate’s Court will be the place where former police constable Zackrie Latham, 25, of New Grounds, will be tried for his alleged crimes, Pompey ruled.
Latham is charged with official corruption, burglary, sale of firearms without a dealer’s licence under the Firearms Act, sale of ammunitions without a dealer’s licence under the Firearms Act, possession of a firearm without a licence under the Firearms Act, possession of ammunitions without a licence under the Firearms Act, possession of a prohibited weapon without authorisation of the minister, and possession of criminal property.
The court did not say whether the trial will take place at its current location: a section of the Georgetown Police Station where a courtroom has been located since the building opened in Sept. 2011.
The Colonarie Magistrate Court has been sitting at the Georgetown Police Station building for a number of years.
And, on Thursday, Connell reasoned that the court was located in the locus and that given the nature of the offences and where they allegedly took place, it might not be conducive for Pompey, “as the magistrate, in that locus, for the matter to stay in that court”.
The lawyer said the magistrate was surrounded by “certain things”, adding that while he was not impugning Pompey’s professionalism, the adjudicator is also a human being.
Connell noted that Latham is a former police officer, adding that the accused man had expressed certain things to him.
The lawyer further noted that Pompey is a retired deputy commissioner of police.
Pompey has been a magistrate since 2016, sometime after retiring from the police force, and Latham was fired from the police force on June 18, after he was charged — less than two years after enlisting.
The magistrate interjected, saying that he does not know Latham and that the record will show that he and Latham were never police officers at the same time.
Pompey said he was treating the case just as any other, adding that if he feels there is any prejudice he would willingly recuse himself.
“I don’t have to be prompted to say that. I do that all the time,” Pompey said.
But the lawyer said he was not suggesting that Pompey knew Latham, nor was he questioning whether the magistrate is a man of principle.
Connell said, however, that Pompey “served, well decorated” in the police force for over 30 years.
“We are all human beings,” Connell said, adding that there are certain questions in the case, “request for certain documentation and certain procedures” that a magistrate without Pompey’s background may not be privy to and may not be able to come to a conclusion that Pompey would.
The lawyer said that the fact that they were at the court “having facts that have already gone public of someone who is jointly charged with him as to what was done where in the very place where we are now, it is highly prejudicial to be tried in the locus”.
The lawyer said that was not proper, even aside from the point of “you being ex and he being police”.
Latham is charged on a number of counts with Avi King, of Diamonds, who pleaded guilty to the charges against him and has been jailed for two years and eight months for his crimes.
Meshach Dublin, of Diamonds, who is also jointly charged with Dublin and King on some of the counts, initially pleaded guilty to all the charges against him but has since changed all his pleas to not guilty.
“I don’t understand how there could be a sentencing of someone who is jointly charged and facts being read… it is not proper procedure,” he said.
The lawyer said that if there is “slight discomfort” for that reason there are other magistrates and Pompey could recuse himself.
“Justice should be seen to be done,” the lawyer emphasised.
“I don’t see why you should have a desire to want to try this case… You couldn’t love your job that much,” Connell said, adding that he was reiterating his client’s concerns, and while not discrediting Pompey, the magistrate has served over 30 years as a police officer.
When he refers to certain diaries or procedures, “you already have the answer. You will know the right answer,” Connell said, adding that depending on the interpretation, based on the position the magistrate held, he would come to a conclusion,
“At the end of it, they may say, ‘Mr. Pompey knew that already.’ ‘You think Mr. Pompey ain’t know about that diary there?’ ‘You think Mr. Pompey ain’t know that the armoury supposed to–”
Connell said that “unfortunately” Pompey is a man of many talents and was at the top of the police force and is now one of the top magistrates.
The lawyer said he was not trying to be devil’s advocate but he has seen and read the facts “of who he is jointly charged with”.
However, Pompey said that the lawyer might be privy to the facts, but what he, as magistrate, knows about the matter, is what he saw on the documents endorsed by Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, who said she was recusing herself because the facts of the case would be known to her.
“I don’t even know the outcome of the case. Honestly,” Pompey said.
However Connell said that the fact is that someone was sentenced already and during sentencing facts have to be read.
Before hearing the prosecutor’s response, Connell said he could not see why the Crown would object as there are four magistrates in the country.
“We are all human beings. The subconscious is a powerful thing,” Connell said.
However, the prosecutor objected to Connell’s application, saying that he did not understand the end goal of the defence counsel’s argument.
Charles said that if there is an issue regarding the point that the court is being heard in the locus, the court could move to another location, adding that the court previously sat in Calliaqua, and arrangements could be made to move to that location.
“I don’t see an issue with the magistrate,” Charles said, however, adding that he thinks that the magistrate is competent enough.
The point that the magistrate is an ex-police commissioner “makes no sense,” Charles said.
“That means that he is even more competent,” the prosecutor said and stressed the Crown’s objection to the defence application that the magistrate recuse himself.
“You are a man of justice and at the end of the day, you make the decision but that is my objection.”
He said he had no objection to change in location but the matter is one for the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, and he holds that it should be heard there.
However, Connell said that the prosecutor just highlighted his point when he said the fact that Pompey is a former deputy commissioner means that he is more competent to deal with the case.
“That means that your experience in your former office will have a bearing on this present case and that is my very point,” Connell said.
He said it should not have bearing on the case and if the prosecutor listens, it is common sense, and that is where law starts.
After hearing the arguments, Pompey denied the application and adjourned the matter to Aug. 26.