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Lawyer Michael Wyllie in a Dec. 16, 2022 photo.
Lawyer Michael Wyllie in a Dec. 16, 2022 photo.

Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne has chided lawyer Michael Wyllie for his conduct in court, becoming the second the second judicial officer to do so in recent months.

“I have already highlighted that your behaviour would border on offensive and I have already highlighted a section in the Criminal Code. You have to contribute to the orderly and proper conduct in a court,” Browne told Wyllie at the Serious Offences Court on Monday.

“You have that overriding duty based on the standards of the profession and your conduct cannot continue to be offensive, … discourteous and disrespectful. And your conduct consistently is of a similar manner and if you have nothing further to contribute to the mitigation, I invite you to be silent,” she told the lawyer.

The development came after Browne found Devorn Baptiste, one of Wyllie’s clients, guilty of   criminal trespass.

The magistrate detailed how she had arrived at her verdict, concluding that the prosecution’s case was far more convincing.

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After the magistrate handed down her verdict, Wyllie told the court that he had sent a report with case law that says that the police cannot show a single photograph for identification purposes.

“And that’s what they did. That’s what they testified,” the lawyer said, adding that he had sent the cases the previous Thursday, April 13, and had also sent a copy to the prosecution.

The chief magistrate said that she was not aware of that, adding that her decision was written on April 11, 2023.

Browne further told the lawyer that the proper procedure is to make before the court an application to present supplemental submissions.

“That’s what I did,” Wyllie said.

The magistrate asked him how he had done it.

 “It was delivered to you,” the lawyer responded.

Browne further said she was not aware of that and reiterated the date on which the decision was written.

“You said you sent it to the court. The procedure is for an application to be made for supplemental submissions to be made. That is how I know it,” the chief magistrate said, noting that even as she was about to hand down the decision Wyllie said nothing to the court about an additional submission.

But Wyllie maintained that the case he submitted clearly shows that if the police show a single photograph to a complainant that is prejudicial.

“That will perhaps form a part of an appeal,” the chief magistrate responded.

But Wyllie said that people do not have money to appeal “so they have to live with these outrageous decisions.

“This is crazy,” the lawyer said.

But the chief magistrate again told the lawyer that procedurally, what should have been done was not done.

“I did!” Wyllie said in a raised voice.

“You didn’t do it here. listen to me, counsel,” Browne responded.

“I sent it here,” Wyllie interjected as the chief magistrate continued, “I do not want either of our blood pressure to go up. We have a duty to make sure that operations in the court are done properly, decently and in order. We have that obligation and its an overriding duty that you possess.”

But Wyllie maintained that the case he later submitted to the court clearly showed that a single photograph should not be shown for identification purposes.

The magistrate said she alluded to that fact in her decision.

She then asked the prosecution if Baptiste had any antecedents.

“These are such elementary police procedures,” Wyllie said. “I don’t know what kind of training police go through here. For identification purposes you cannot do that.”

The chief magistrate responded:

“Counsel, Mr. Wyllie, perhaps with your wealth of knowledge and expertise as a former police officer maybe you can render assistance in that regard so that the country in which you reside, if there are issues you are concerned about, you can contribute to the development of the personnel than we keep pulling down the systems that are in place and the systems we operate in.”

But Wyllie stated that the Court of Appeal has made it clear that it is unacceptable to show one photograph for identification.

The chief magistrate said the purpose for which photos are shown are not to cause prejudice but maybe to highlight a direction.

She said there is also learning as to photographs being shown and the purpose for it.

Wyllie told the court that when the police got around to showing photos, they only showed 10 while the law says it should be 12.

He said that Baptiste should also have been given the choice as to whether he wanted to have a photograph parade or an actual line up.

The magistrate said that the court had gone through those issues and said that at that juncture, she was inviting Wyllie to mitigate on behalf of his client.

“The mitigation for the defendant is that this is a wrong decision, blatantly wrong decision and I have to appeal this matter. That is how I feel about this. You are going against the law,” Wyllie said, resulting in the magistrate chiding him about his conduct.

Before sentencing Baptiste, the chief magistrate invited him to mitigate on his own behalf, and also heard a submission on sentencing from the prosecutor, Station Sergeant of Police, Renrick Cato.

The court established a starting point of 10% of the maximum 12-month sentence, and after considering the aggravating and mitigating feature of the offence and the offender, arrived at a sentence of eight months in prison.

The 22 days that Baptiste spent on remand was deducted from his sentence.

Last December, High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle ordered the police to remove Wyllie from the courtroom moments after the judge told the lawyer he would not allow him to appear before him again unless he apologises for his conduct during the Veron Primus murder trial.

“I cannot end this matter without placing on record my view of the conduct of counsel for the accused,” Justice Cottle said after sentencing Primus for the November 2015 murder of real estate agent, Sharleen Greaves.

Justice Cottle said that throughout the trial, Wyllie “displayed an attitude of gross disrespect for the court”.

2 replies on “Magistrate warns lawyer about ‘offensive, … discourteous and disrespectful’ conduct”

  1. The old adage what is good for the goose is good for the gander holds true , was it not the same counsel Wylie who represented he state v Cornelius John? His tenacity as a lawyer was unquestionable. All of a sudden his behavior in courts is called into question vis a vis the the proper administration of Justine .

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