The High Court on Thursday issued an order directing the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force Commodore Gary Best to immediately release Captain Ronald Hope.
This was after the Defence Attorneys Gregory Gaskin, Trenton Lake and Chandra Persaud, moved to the court in favour of their client who had been in custody for more than 135 days.
This is the second time that Hope is being court martialled for the same offence. He first appeared before Justice Winston Moore in October last year and now faces Judge Advocate Oslen Small.
The defence team had earlier applied to the Justice Small and the Tribunal for the pre-trial liberty of Captain Hope.
But the Tribunal declined jurisdiction and the matter was then taken to the High Court.Hope was initially court martialled in October 2009 for the unlawful upliftment of a semi-automatic pistol from the GDF’s arms store at Timehri, Camp Stephenson.
He was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to section 75 of the Defence Act, chapter 15:01 of the Laws of Guyana.
However, these proceedings were discontinued and declared a nullity, last December, by Judge Advocate Winston Moore due to procedural irregularities.
Following submission’s made by the defence, Justice Moore had ruled that the proceedings against the army Captain was not laid in accordance with rule 8 of the Defence Rules procedure.
The Judge Advocate made the ruling after submissions were made by counsel for Hope on Monday.
Captain Hope was placed under close arrest at Camp Ayanganna since August but was subsequently placed on open arrest on November 2.
In making his ruling, Justice Moore had pointed out that many irregularities that plagued the laying of the charge against Captain Hope are so fatal that the entire proceedings must be declared a nullity and be brought to an end.
Following the initial ruling by Justice Moore last year, defence attorney Trenton Lake had pointed out that in the face of the ruling by Justice Moore, the GDF can avail itself to one of two options.
They may choose to re-lay the charge against Captain Hope, this time ensuring that the procedural requirements are complied with, or since a court martial is an expensive affair, the army may, in an effort not to waste taxpayers’ money, accept Hope’s request to be struck off strength.
The army chose to re-lay the charges against Captain Hope. A new court martial of Hope on the same charge began on 5 January 2010 before Judge Advocate Oslen Small and President of the Tribunal Lt. Colonel K Persaud. This second court martial has also run aground and has been halted on account of similar procedural irregularities
Lead counsel for the defence attorney Gregory Gaskin has asked for a voir dire so as to examine, in full, the circumstances under which the summary of evidence proceedings were conducted.
Summary of evidence proceedings has its closest approximation in common law to the Preliminary Inquiry of an indictable trial.
The voir dire is to take place next Tuesday.
Two questions are now being asked.
Firstly, why, with the GDF headed by an Attorney-at-law and with at least two other lawyers in its Legal Services Department, should such procedural errors be made twice in short succession?
Secondly, why is the GDF pursuing the expensive conduct of two courts martial to try an officer for an offence that has in the past been tried by Unit Commanding Officers?
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