Neesa Gopaul murder PI… Defence counsel calls for end to proceedings
- says court process being abused
Controversy surrounded the preliminary inquiry (PI) into the death of 16-year-old Queen’s College student Neesa Lalita Gopaul yesterday when Defence Attorney Vic Puran argued for the discontinuance of the pre-trial matter involving the dead teen’s mother Bibi Gopaul and the mother’s lover Jarvis Small.
Apart from this, the prosecution’s final witness, Bibi Gopaul’s father, Mohammed Kayum, was deemed a hostile witness since the man’s evidence to the court “could not be taken with total confidence”. Another controversial aspect arose when the defence argued that the court procedural process had been abused.
Before the clashes of the opposing sides, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Marlon Chapman returned to the witness box to be cross-examined by Jarvis Small’s lawyer Senior Counsel Bernard De Santos and Puran.
During Chapman’s testimony, information was released to the court which sparked numerous objections by Puran. It was noted that at the time, necessary evidence to charge the accused was not with the police, yet Gopaul and her co-accused were charged with murder.
Subsequent to that revelation, Puran stood up to make a joint application on behalf of De Santos and himself. He claimed that the preliminary inquiry into Neesa Gopaul’s death should stop for the simple reason of the court’s procedural process being abused.
This came in light of Chapman’s evidence. Puran argued that the accused should have never been arrested since the police did not have evidence to consider that the couple had committed the crime. He continued that it was a violation of every known right and further a violation of the accused individuals’ human rights that they were charged when evidence against them did not exist.
That matter was addressed by Chief Magistrate Priya Beharry who noted the application. Subsequently Gopaul’s father, Kayum, took to the witness box.
On the previous occasion, the PI was adjourned prematurely when Kayum requested to approach the Magistrate to disclose his discomfort with the prosecutor. Kayum alleged that the prosecutor was forcing information on him and that he was being made to say what is in favour of the prosecutor. Prosecutor Pritima Kissoon on that occasion explained that the witness was indeed given material to refresh his memory, since he had difficulty remembering what he had told the police. Kissoon also said that what Kayum was given was in relation to the statements that he gave subsequent to Neesa Gopaul’s death.
Puran at that time made submissions for Kissoon to remove herself as prosecutor in the matter. He sought to display Kissoon’s measures as illegal and further called for the witness to be deemed hostile since his evidence would be one that would not be given willingly to the court.
The court ruled on those applications yesterday and it was in favour of the prosecution. Prosecutor Kissoon was made to remain in the matter. The court said that the prosecutor did not deny any of the allegations made by the witness, but instead offered an explanation for her actions. The explanation was enough to dispel any consideration of wrongdoing by the prosecutor.
As the PI continued, Kayum took the stand. He maintained that he did not remember the events leading up to him now being in court. And after a few unwilling answers to the prosecutor’s questions, Kissoon requested that the court deem Kayum a hostile witness, prior to saying that he was refusing to co-operate with the prosecution. That application was granted by the court.
After that, Puran again made a submission. In relation to Chapman’s evidence, Puran said someone should be held responsible for charging the accused. The prosecutor had stated that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had advised the police to charge the accused with murder.
Puran then said that if Chapman, “a policeman four ranks below that of Commissioner could say on one hand that there was no evidence to charge the accused and on the other hand the office of the DPP instructed the police to charge the accused, then someone from that office should be brought to court to explain why the arrest was made”. Puran said it would be in the interest of clarity for the court to make its ruling as it pertained to ceasing the court procedure in the PI. This issue was also the catalyst for Puran claiming an abuse of court process.
The Magistrate however assured Puran that the court would seriously consider his application to have the PI stopped, but as the lawyer continued to press the issue, an answer was given. The court revealed that the PI will not stop and neither will anyone from the DPP’s office be summoned.
The Magistrate further opined that what was before the court was adequate to continue the procedure. In light of that, Puran advised that the defence would then be moving to the High Court to get a motion to discontinue the pre-trial matter.
Magistrate Beharry then advised that the court had no issue with the lawyer’s wishes. Puran was further advised that until the High Court orders a halt in the matter, the PI would be continuing without delay.
The matter was adjourned until next Wednesday, May 23.