For the first time since she came on the bench, City Magistrate Annette Singh was faced with a
‘tricky’ situation – a Defence Attorney who wanted her to hand down a sentence from a trial she had not presided over and a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who wanted her to conduct a new trial.
At the centre of the legal wrangling is the son of the Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds. Hinds Jnr, 34, had already been found guilty and was awaiting sentencing by Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond in relation to a year-old wounding charge.
However, the case has been in limbo; the Magistrate received marching orders from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) the very day she was set to sentence Hinds.
Hinds Jnr was charged in relation to an altercation he had with his teenaged sister-in-law. Reports are that Hinds, who had accused his then 18-year-old sister-in-law, Tenza Lane, of stealing one of his cellular phones, flew in a fit and, brandished a gun, thrashed and threatened to kill her at his Lot 83 Duke Street, Kingston residence on February 27, 2014.
Following the incident, an unlawful wounding charge was instituted against him. After prosecution by Police Corporal, Renetta Bentham, Magistrate Chandan-Edmond found him guilty on February 6, last.
Amid questions as to the way forward since the Magistrate’s dismissal, the DPP advised that based on the facts before the court, the issue was whether the guilty verdict of a previous Magistrate represents a final adjudication.
The Prosecution maintained that according to law a final adjudication means a verdict plus a sentence. Since Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond had only returned a verdict and no sentence, it was not a final adjudication.
The court heard that the new presiding Magistrate may not sentence the defendant consequent upon another Magistrate hearing evidence. The DPP found that a de novo trial was befitting in the circumstance.
Attorney-at-Law Peter Hugh who represented Hinds in association with Attorney-at-Law, Latchmie Rahamat, explained that Hinds Jnr had pleaded and had already been found guilty and to have him tried twice for the same offence would be to offend the rule of autrefois.
He said that he does not agree with the direction the Prosecution has taken as his client ought not to be tried twice for the same offence under the principle of double jeopardy.
Hearing both sides, the Magistrate adjourned the matter and it was called yesterday for her to decide whether she would sentence Hinds or conduct a new trial.
During the proceedings, the Magistrate deliberated on the fact that she was at that point tasked with delivering a decision based on constitutional arguments.
The court said though it has noted the positions of the defence and prosecution in the matter, there is no law that directs whether she should hand down a sentence or conduct a new trial in the matter.
She stated that Magistrates are creatures of statute and since both parties have brought arguments on the basis of the constitution, she has no jurisdiction. In the circumstance, Magistrate Singh said she will seek the High Court’s advice on how to proceed.
A motion will be filed by Magistrate Singh for the constitutional court to determine whether Hinds Jnr. should be sentenced or face a new trial. She told Attorney-at-Law Latchmie Rahamat who represented Hinds that after she receives the advice of the High Court, she will inform on the way forward.
Rahamat yesterday reminded of their position on the matter and added that the constitution is the law of the land and that it states if a person has been found guilty by the court, then that person should face sentencing.
Responding, the Magistrate said that application will be made in the High Court next week where she is seeking an order on the way forward. In this vein, Rahamat requested a short report date for an update on the proceeding.
The Magistrate granted her application and the matter will be called again in the Magistrates’ Court on May 22. Magistrate Singh said that she is expecting a decision to be returned from the High Court by then.
The lawyer was told that whatever constitutional provisions she has can be laid over to the Chief Justice when the matter is called.
Prior to the DPP’s position, Singh had said that since Hinds has previously been found guilty, a retrial will be to overturn or appeal the guilty verdict, which she has no authority to do.
Singh expressed readiness to go ahead and sentence the 34-year-old on the wounding charge. However, a date for sentencing has not yet been set.
Magistrate Chandan-Edmond had found Hinds guilty and was awaiting a probation report to sentence him. But the very day Chandan-Edmond was expected to deliver her decision, the Probation officer did not show and the former Magistrate was dismissed.
Since then her matters were heard by Singh. Even though recently reinstated Magistrate Alex Moore has taken up the mantle in her court, the matter remained with Singh.
Since, Chandan-Edmond had not handed down the sentence, the JSC had justified that another Magistrate can hand down her sentence. But Chandan-Edmond’s decision was pending a probation report which she never had an opportunity to hear (Sunita Samaroo)
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