A lawyer has asked the court to summon Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Commissioner of Police Colin John to testify in the trial of a prison officer charged with conspiracy and corruption in connection with the September 2019 prison escape of accused murderer Veron Primus.
The lawyer, Grant Connell, asked the court to summon, on its own motion, the two senior national security figures.
Connell is counsel for Louie Cupid, 47, who is being tried on charges:
that between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, 2019, at Her Majesty’s Prisons, in Kingstown, being employed in the Public Service, as a police officer, he abused the authority of his office by doing an arbitrary act prejudice to the rights of the Superintendent of Prisons, to wit, conspire to aid the escape of Veron Primus from lawful custody; and,
that between Sept. 24 and Oct. 2, 2019 at Her Majesty’s Prisons in Kingstown, he agreed with Veron Primus that a course of conduct shall be pursued, which, if the agreement was carried out in accordance with his intention, would amount to the commission of the offence of escaping lawful custody by the parties to the agreement.
The prosecution’s case continued on Monday, with Brenton Charles, who was prison chief at the time of Primus’ escape being recalled to be questioned by Connell in relation to diaries in which warders recorded activities at the section of the prison where Primus was held.
After Charles’ testimony, Chief Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche, who is representing the Crown in the matter, called his next witness, crime scene specialist, Corporal 743 Raycon John.
However, after Cpl John took to the stand, Connell rose and told the court that he had asked for disclosure of the diaries as they are crucial, adding that the court has heard certain evidence as they relate to the dairies.
The lawyer said that the court had heard the evidence of Charles regarding the diaries and their role and content.
Charles’ evidence regarding what was written in the diaries “seems to be at variance with individual or individuals” who were present at the prison in December 2020, a year after the incident that triggered the charge before the court, Connell said.
Connell did not mention Gonsalves when he asked Charles about this on Monday.
The prison chief, who opted for early retirement last December after Primus escaped for a second time, said that it was a “lie” to say that the diaries had not been written up.
Connell told the court that on the face of it, the diaries are missing and the court could, therefore, only be guided by “the last meeting of the minds on the dairies in December 2020” between the commissioner of police, superintendent of prisons, and the prime minister.
He said that the evidence appears to be crucial to the just decision of the case.
The lawyer submitted that given the evidence so far, the court should summon, on its own motion, the prime minister and police chief under section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
This law gives the court powers to summon material witnesses or to examine persons present, if the person’s evidence appears to be essential to the just decision of a case.
The lawyer said that the content of the diaries, “in their obvious absence” would have a bearing on the just decision of the case, hence his application.
He said that if the court does not agree with his suggestion, he would have to make and application to summon Gonsalves and John to come to the court to explain what they know about the content of the diaries “that are supposed to be before the court but seemingly have gone missing”.
In response, Delplesche said that he understood Connell to be requiring certain persons to come to give evidence.
“That ought to be a part of his case,” Delplesche said, adding that he was calling his witnesses, and has Cpl John and the lead investigator Assistant Superintendent of Police Oswin E. Richard, who were yet to testify.
The prosecutor noted that the law gives Connell the powers to request what he was asking, adding that the court, of its own volition, could also summon the prime minister and police chief.
Delplesche said that, as prosecutor, he had recalled Charles as part of his case.
He said that if Connell wants to call the prime minister and the commissioner as witnesses, the law is on his side and nothing was stopping him from making that application.
“The law is on his side and, as I understand it, those are proper applications,” he said, adding that the issue might be when the application is made.
But Connell said that not only should the law be on his side, but he also wants justice to be on his side.
He said he could not put certain questions to ASP Richards if the summoning of the prime minister and police chief were not entertained.
The defence counsel said that the former prisons chief had said that he had given the diaries to Richards, but Richards had told the court via the prosecution that he never saw the diaries.
“It is very disturbing,” Connell said.
Ruling on the application, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne said that she had noted the counsel’s application, adding that she knew what the law says.
Browne said that she was not entertaining the application at that juncture adding that when the prosecution closes its case, Connell could make the relevant application.
But Connell asked the chief magistrate to say why the application was not entertained.
The chief magistrate said the court was not going to summon the persons at that juncture.
She added that the prosecution had not closed its case and she did not know what would come from their case, noting that the investigator was yet to testify.
Connell, however, said that he asked for disclosure of the diaries and the court was yet to pronounce on this.
“That is disturbing,” he said, and accused the court of disregarding his request.
The court went on to hear the testimony of Cpl John and ASP Richards.
However, the lawyer, noting that it had gone past 2 p.m., asked that the cross-examination of Richards be adjourned to another day, saying that he would be long with that witness.
The court adjourned the trial to Aug. 5.