Jun 10, 2009 News
Lawyers claim that case is a “Meh Meh and a smoke screen”
Four serving members of the Guyana Defence Force were yesterday admitted to their pretrial liberty after making a court appearance before Magistrate Allen Wilson, at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
The men, Shawn Lord, 20, of 4 Old Road, Blankenburg, West Coast Demerara; Theon Moffatt, 22, of 85 South Haslington, East Coast Demerara; Erwin Woodroofe , 27, of Lichfield, West Coast Berbice; and Lancelot Gordon, 21, of 224 Steven Street, South Sophia, were not required to plead to the indictable offence of robbery underarms.
It was alleged that on May 25, last, at Five Star Backdam, North West District, while armed with guns, robbed Selso Da Silva of one and a half ounces of raw gold valuing $246,000 property of Francisco Da Silva.
Attorneys at law Gregory Gaskin and Vic Puran represented the four defendants. Attorney at law Puran told the court that his clients were kept way over the stipulated 72 hours of detention.
The lawyer said that the police did not even seek to get a High Court order, which would have allowed them to keep the soldiers for longer than the stipulated time.
Puran further told the court that he, along with attorney Gregory Gaskin, had cause to file a writ of Habeas Corpus in the High Court against the detention of their clients. The matter was heard before Justice Winston Patterson on Monday.
The soldier’s constitutional rights were breached and thus he is asking for his clients to be “put on court and leave as freemen and make themselves a subject to the honourable magistrate.”
The defendants were then asked to leave the courtroom at the magistrate’s request. The magistrate said that was done in an effort to clarify the charge which was read earlier to the men.
When the men were brought back into the courtroom, the charge was re-read over. Puran made yet another request, this time that the matter be put down and a state counsel come to prosecute the matter since the “police prosecutor is not capable enough to handle the matter”.
The magistrate then asked the prosecutor whether or not he would like to deal with the matter or assign a state prosecutor.
Prosecutor Thomas responded that he was trained enough to deal with the matter before him.
Puran then requested that the prosecutor outline the particulars of the case.
Prosecutor Thomas stated that on May 25, last, the soldiers were all armed with guns and robbed the virtual complainant of two and one half ounces of raw gold.
The magistrate then interjected and stated that measurement mentioned in the charge differs from what the prosecutor is claiming.
That was later clarified by one of the investigating officers. Thomas continued to tell the court that the matter was later reported and the defendants were subsequently arrested.
Attorney at law Gregory Gaskin, at this point began to address the court. He said that all the defendants have unblemished records, and distinguished service with the Guyana Defence Force.
He said that all the defendants are all non-commissioned officers, with three of them being Lance Corporals and the other a lieutenant.
Gaskin said this achievement shows that their superiors have taken notice and promoted them.
He further told the court that the patrol was lawful and authorized by the Guyana Defence Force.
He added that in relation to the prosecutors statements that they were armed with guns, it’s a soldier’s right to walk his weapon.
“They should always be armed with their weapons, specifically the AK-47, and it’s usually done in an aggressive manner because they are defending their country,” Gaskin argued.
The lawyer further noted that the ranks were obligated to check the border to ensure that there were no illegal activities. He said that those instructions were given by their Commanding Officer.
Gaskin opined that his clients are being prosecuted for “political gains” adding that the charges were trumped against them.
The lawyer added that the virtual complainant in the matter has blatantly refused to come forward to give any evidence against the soldiers.
“Who is robbed of a large quantum and does not want to come to court and see the persons prosecuted? That is utter nonsense,” Gaskin stated.
He said that in relation to the money found on one of the soldiers it was the property of the Guyana Defence Force.
The lawyer noted that the GDF had given him the money to discharge duties and if a simple investigation was done they would have found that out.
Gaskin said that the defendants have served the country and as such they must be protected. He added that the men should not be sent to a place (Camp Street prison) where their protection is put at risk.
He further added that he knows the matter would be transferred to the Matthews Ridge Magistrates Court.
“One must take into consideration the amount of time that court sits and his clients must not be remanded to prison, but admitted to their pretrial liberty”.
He then asked the court to take note that the charge does not point to robbery underarms, but contrary to reports about the robbery his clients were invited to have lunch with the virtual complainants and also offered to stay overnight.
“Who in their mind would offer supposed bandits lunch and shelter for the night after being robbed by them. That surely does not make sense”.
The lawyer contended that someone is framing his clients.
Gaskin said that he doubts that the matter would go to trial because it’s a “Meh Meh and a smoke screen case”.
He also stated that the accusation was made by illegal immigrants who would probably flee the jurisdiction.
Police Prosecutor Lloyd Thomas objected to bail and told the court that the virtual complainant is not an “alien” but a naturalized citizen.
The virtual complainants are willing to testify against the defendants, he added.
Thomas said that everyone knows that the soldiers were on patrol but when they allegedly robbed the miners they lost all loyalty and thus they should be remanded to prison.
He further added that the defendants pose the possible risk of interfering with the victims. Thomas said that bail should not be considered because of the seriousness and prevalence of the offence, further adding that they were entrusted with the weapons to protect and serve, not rob citizens.
Magistrate Allen Wilson interjected and told the prosecutor that the next time the case would be heard is August 4, 2009. He also enquired whether the prosecution would be ready to proceed with the matter. The prosecutor answered in the affirmative.
Attorney at law Vic Puran interjected and told the court that the mere fact that the prosecutor is “lame” shows that the case is “lame”.
He said that prosecutor did not show any reasons why bail should not be granted. Puran further added that no contention has being made that the defendants would not return to court, and the court must not deprive them of their pretrial liberty.
He said that the prosecution had stated that there would be possible interference, but persons who attempt to interfere with court proceedings would be charged and placed before the courts.
After almost an hour-long debate between the defence and prosecution, bail was set at $100,000.
As the defendants were leaving the courtroom proceeding they all held hands as a sign of unity between them.
The matter was also transferred to the Matthew’s Ridge Magistrate’s Court.
Reports reaching this newspaper had stated that the ranks entered the camp and held everyone at gunpoint, and demanded gold and cash.
The victims complied, but contacted the owner of the camp who was not at the location, immediately after the ranks left.
A report was made and following searches conducted by a GDF, the soldiers were intercepted. It was alleged that the soldiers had a quantity of gold and money in their possession.
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