– accuses DPP of being contemptuous
By Dale Andrews
In a landmark High Court ruling, Justice James Bovell-Drakes, granted a murder accused his pre trial liberty because of the failure of the Director of Public Prosecution to obey an order of the court.
Treon Sumner, who was committed to stand trial as the number two accused in the murder of Odinga Bryan, was granted bail in the sum of $300,000 by Justice Bovell-Drakes, who stopped short of citing the DPP for contempt.
Bail was not considered for the other accused, Squincy McLennan, since he is facing another murder charge.
Both men who are being represented by attorney at law Basil Williams, have been in custody for the past six years.
They are accused of killing Bryan in the village of Buxton during the 2002-2005 crime wave.
The issue of bail was prompted by the prosecution’s position that it was not in a position to proceed with the matter, despite an order by the judge.
On January 12, last, Justice Bovell-Drakes had ordered that the prosecution present the indictment at today’s hearing.
This was the second time that the judge had made such an order.
But instead of presenting the case against Sumner and McLennan, State Prosecutor Priteema Kissoon presented another matter, that of Compton Fernandes.
Justice Bovell-Drakes interjected and questioned the position taken by the DPP, in violation of his order.
“Why is it that the DPP, contrary to my order, is compelling me to accept an indictment?”
Justice Bovell-Drakes then invited the prosecutor to explain, the state’s position.
The court was told that the state was not in a position to present the case against McLennan and Sumner, since it is unable to contact the main eyewitness for the prosecution, Errol Adams.
“Do you think that it was important to take cognizance of my order, rather than coming here and presenting another indictment?” the judge asked.
He asked then prosecutor to provide the court with any principle in law that would prevent her from going ahead with the McLennan/Sumner matter.
But the prosecutor could not.
“Having regards to the state needing the eyewitness to lead compelling evidence, we are not in a position to proceed,” was the prosecutor’s response.
At this point, Justice Bovell-Drakes appeared to get agitated and told the prosecutor that the DPP is inviting her to be contemptuous of the court.
“If an order was made it must be obeyed unless it is set aside,” the judge pointed out.
“The DPP asked me to present the case of Fernandes,” the prosecutor responded.
“Not in this court,” Justice Bovell-Drakes blurted out.
“I am not going to encourage that. If the court of appeal says that (I do otherwise), yes! The DPP has no jurisdiction over me,” he added.
He made the point that the prosecution was trying to conveniently mislead the court.
“The DPP cannot sit in her office and direct this court without taking steps to set aside the order. This is complete contempt for the court,” the judge stated.
He then called again on the prosecutor to present the indictment against McLennan and Sumner.
At this point Prosecutor Kissoon sought an adjournment to seek the advice of the DPP.
But Justice Bovell-Drakes rejected the request, pointing out to the prosecutor that she was there as the authorized representative of the office of the DPP.
“Under the Attorney’s Act, anyone who stands before the court (as prosecutor) assumes the role of the DPP and the Attorney General. I am not going to sit here and encourage people to flout the law. You are subject to the law, not to the DPP,” Justice Bovell-Drakes stated.
At this point the team from the DPP’s office appeared to panic. Frantic telephone calls were made as the judge and a packed courtroom waited for them to come up with a different position.
Justice Bovell-Drakes pointed out that he had the authority to instruct the prosecution to carry on with the case.
The prosecution then turned to Article 187 of the Constitution and pointed out that the DPP shall not be subject to the direction of the court.
“Come with another limb,” Justice Bovell-Drakes responded.
He went on to warn the prosecution that since the prosecution could not offer a proper explanation for not presenting the indictment against McLennan and Sumner, he will be obliged to put them on bail.
“This is the power that I have. You cannot make a mockery of a person’s rights. They are in prison so long. I make an order and the DPP says ‘forget about my order’. Unless I am a Jack-in -the box, which I’m not, I think my words mean something,” Justice Bovell-Drakes said.
The prosecution then went into a state of resignation and informed the court that it was not instructed by the DPP to present the McLennan/Sumner indictment.
The judge then called on Defence Attorney Basil Williams to address the question of the quantum of bail to be imposed, only with respect to Sumner.
Williams said that he agreed with the judge’s position, since the men were in prison for more than six years.
He suggested that bail be set in the sum of $100,000 since the family of the accused, are people of ordinary circumstances.
However his figure did not find favour with Justice Bovell-Drakes who indicated that he would be setting a bad example if he sent the accused on $100,000 bail, notwithstanding the prosecution’s position.
“These men are charged with murder,” he stated.
But according to the Defence Attorney, substantial bail is tantamount to committing the accused to a longer stay in prison.
Williams then presented a written ruling in a previous matter to support his argument for reasonable bail, which was accepted by the judge.
The prosecution had requested bail in the sum of $500,000 arguing that there was the question of tampering with the witnesses.
But the judge pointed out that there was only one civilian witness in the case and the others are policemen.
“Are you suggesting that these men will tamper with the policemen?” Justice Bovell-Drakes asked the prosecutor.
He then set bail in the sum of $300,000 for Sumner, who gave his address as 393 One Mile, Linden, and ordered that he report to the officer in charge of the criminal investigation department at the McKenzie police station, every Monday.
“Should you fail to do so, the DPP has the liberty to approach the court to have the bail escheated,” Justice Bovell-Drakes warned.
He then proceeded to hear the indictment against Fernandes.
Sumner’s mother, Cheryl Sumner, thanked the “Lord” for her son’s pre-trial freedom.
“Is only God could’a do it because since Treon in there is every day and night I just keep asking God fuh tek he out…and today I feel much content and satisfied.”
Sumner expressed confidence in the justice system.
“The amount is a little hot but I will try. The Father will show me the way and I will try as early as possible to get the bail,” Sumner stated.
In an invited comment, Defence Attorney Basil Williams, said that the charges against his clients, who were 17 years old at the time of their arrests, are specious and were designed to give the impression that the police have done their work.
“We’re saying, if you are so confident that these are the young men who did the murder, then bring them on for trial. How could you stay six years and you’re still asking for excuse not to try them. It’s oppressive, it’s unconstitutional and it’s discriminatory. Justice was done today because it was time that the DPP understands that the DPP is not above the law,” Williams said.
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