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The defendant, Adriana King speaks out side the Calliaqua Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
The defendant, Adriana King speaks out side the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
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A magistrate today (Tuesday) ruled in favour of the defence and stayed the prosecution of a teacher and activist accused of trying to block Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves from entering Parliament on Aug. 5, 2021.

The ruling means that unless the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) reinstates the charge or appeals the magistrate’s decision, Adriana King no longer has to worry about the charge — one of several that have kept her out of the classroom over the last few years.

“It is clear that there has been an inordinate delay in hearing of this matter. It, however, cannot be said that there was an abuse of process by the Director of Public Prosecution,” Magistrate John Ballah said as he handed down his ruling at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court.

“What can be said was there a failure of the justice system to have a matter of this nature ventilated within a reasonable time and moreover in accordance with the Pre-Trial Timeline Guidelines,” Ballah said, referring to guidelines that set out the time frame in which matters before the magistrate’s court must be disposed of.

He said that in coming to his decision, he considered all the case law, the inherent jurisdiction of the court to stay proceedings and the learning that it must be used sparingly.

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“… the court, being mindful of the Pre-Trial Timeline Guidelines of 2003 and the objective of the guidelines, will stay these proceedings,” John said.

“Any party in this matter who does not agree with the decision of the court to follow the Pre-Trial Timeline Guidelines has the right to appeal,” Ballah said.

King was accused of trying to block Gonsalves’ access to Parliament on a day when hundreds of protesters gathered in the city to protest as Parliament was about to pass a law giving the government authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for public sector workers.

The law was passed in Gonsalves’ absence as he was struck in the head and was flown to Barbados for medical attention.

The magistrate noted that the court had asked for submissions from the prosecution and defendant about abuse of process and delay.

Allegation against King 

Ballah noted that the proceedings began from an allegation by the Crown that King was one of the leaders of a protest who attempted to impede the prime minister’s entrance into the House of Assembly on Aug. 5, 2021.

King was arrested and first appeared before the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Sept. 10, 2021, where she pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Since King’s arraignment, the prosecution applied to have the charge amended twice, Ballah said.

One amendment saw the particulars of the charge being amended and the other amendment saw changes to both the particulars of the charge and the section of law under which it was brought.

The court allowed these two amendments but Bacchus-Baptiste noted her objection to the significant amendments to the charge.

She also indicated that if the court granted the amendment, the defence would apply for the proceedings to be stayed because of abuse of process.  

Counsel for the defence and the Crown made written submissions to the court on the issues.

Ballah said it is well-established law that the magistrate has an inherent jurisdiction to stay proceedings to protect the court’s process and maintain the public trust in the legal system.

Another well-established law, he said, is the prosecution’s ability to apply for amendments anytime during a trial.

The magistrate, however, said that the earlier these amendments are applied for, the more favourably the court would look upon them.

He said the amendments were applied for before the start of the trial and in those circumstances, could not be seen as an abuse of process.

“It may have been seen as such if the matter was withdrawn and brought back and after it was brought back, was withdrawn again or discharged and then reinstated based on the same facts,” Ballah said.  

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Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, seen here in a March 10, 2023, photo, represented Adriana King.

Guidelines are for uniformity in magistracy 

In considering whether or not, in the extant case, the delay could result in a stay of the proceedings, the magistrate said that the court found the Magistrate’s Court Pre-Trial Timeline Guidelines issued in 2003 most appropriate as they set out the time in which matters are to be disposed of.

Ballah said he was well aware of the prosecution’s argument that these guidelines are not law and that he was also aware that it is always best to have matters ventilated before the court.

“However, these guidelines were created to fill the gap left by deficiencies in legislation,” the magistrate said.

The guidelines also seek to provide uniformity in the magistracy as it relates to how the court functions and, most importantly, how the court approaches sentencing, he said.

“Furthermore, if it is understood that the sentencing guidelines ought to be followed, we also cannot cherry-pick which guidelines to follow,” he said.

Ballah said the timelines guidelines seem to provide the court, the prosecution and the defence guidance on the time in which matters are to be dealt with in the absence of the criminal procedure rule.

The guidelines say that summary matters must be disposed of within six months after a defendant first appears before the court, the magistrate pointed out.

In a preliminary inquiry, the timeline is nine months, as is the case with traffic matters.

The guidelines also say that where a matter is set for trial and the defendant is represented by a lawyer and that lawyer cannot appear to represent the defendant, the lawyer must ensure that a competent lawyer appears to represent the defendant, Ballah said.

Additionally, the guidelines further say that a magistrate is to ensure a timeline and is given authority to make a decision that he or she considers equitable in all circumstances.

He said the circumstances include those highlighted in the case of Belle v. DPP (1985), provided by the prosecution.

Neither prosecution nor defence considered pre-trial timelines

Ballah said that in looking at King’s case, it appears that from the outset none of the parties involved kept the pre-trial timeline guidelines in mind.

“The offence does not fall within the realm of a preliminary inquiry or a traffic offence. It is an offence that ought to have been disposed of within six months,” he said.

He noted that the prosecution argued that the defence caused most of the adjournment.

“While this might be so, the prosecution is not innocent,” John said.

He said that the matter first came before him on July 25, 2023, at Kingstown Magistrate’s Court and emphasised that it was not the first time that it had come before the court.

On that date, the prosecution indicated that they were not ready because the prosecutor who had conduct of the matter was unavailable.

When the matter was called again on Oct. 25, 2023, the prosecution applied to have the entire charge amended, along with the section of the law. This amendment was granted, Ballah noted.

He said that as a result, the matter was further delayed to ensure that King could be properly defended.

Court also to be blamed

Ballah said the court must also share some of the blame in the delay because a magistrate was not available for some time and things ought to have been put in place to address this deficiency.

No magistrate was assigned at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court from March 31 to July 26, 2023.

King was unrepresented in court on Tuesday as the ruling was handed down.

She told the court she was unsure if her lawyer knew the matter was down for hearing that day.

However, Ballah said that the lawyer knew as he had spoken to her recently while he was on his way to the Grenadines, part of his magisterial district.

On Monday, King along with Robert “Patches” Knights/King, Luzette King, and John Mofford will be tried on a charge that on Feb. 23, 2023, at Kingstown, they each failed to comply with the instructions of Roycel Davis, Corporal of Police 471, when instructed to disperse from “an unlawfully held public meeting which was held within 200 yards of the Court House building when the House of Assembly was sitting”, contrary to Section 10(3)(a) of the Public Order Act.

One reply on “Charge stayed against teacher accused of blocking PM’s way to Parliament”

  1. Take warning says:

    Ar yo tink it’s easy living in a communist country under a hard core dictator ? Wen dem bin block road and ambulance can’t pass with maternity patient, it’s was correct ., but thank You Abba Father there are still good people in this wicked place as evil and wickedness can only continue if the good people do and say nothing.

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