Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill has rejected a submission made by Queen’s Counsel, Celia Clyne-Edwards to throw out criminal charges laid by the State against a senior police officer in connection with an alleged driver’s license selling racket in the country.
Clyne-Edwards made the move last week Friday in the case which involves Superintendant Claudius Coutain and small businessman, Matthew Harris who is popularly known as Captain Harris.
Almost a year ago, police investigators arrested and charged Coutain and Captain Harris but the Preliminary Inquiry is yet to start in the lower court.
Supt. Coutain has been slapped with five charges of deceiving a public officer and is jointly charged with Captain Harris on one count of conspiracy to deceive a public officer.
The matter came up once again before the Chief Magistrate at the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court and was dominated by legal submissions from defense attorneys Clyne-Edwards QC and Dr. Francis Alexis QC.
Attorney Clyne-Edwards, who is representing Captain Harris failed in her attempt to convince the court to dismiss the joint charge laid against her client.
The female QC took issue with what the court eventually ruled was a typographical error in one of the charges against her client, which read on the charge sheet, “Endeavour to deceive a public officer” instead of conspiracy to deceive a public officer.
She told the court that as a result of this, she was “unable to prepare a defense,” and insisted that the Prosecution “does not have a charge” against her client.
However, the Chief Magistrate was satisfied with the explanation provided by Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock, who is leading the Prosecution’s case in the matter.
Pinnock conceded that it was indeed an error that was overlooked since the charge sheet has the correct sections of the Criminal Code to support the charges laid – those being Section 48 dealing with conspiracy and Sec. 366 dealing with deceiving a public officer.
Magistrate Gill agreed with Pinnock’s application for an amendment to be made to the charge so that it now reads, “Conspiracy to deceive a public officer.”
According to Clyne-Edwards, “this is a completely different charge,” and told the court that “it is highly prejudicial (for the State) to come at this time and ask for an amendment”.
“That was nine months ago – they must have realised that there was an error,” she contended.
Pinnock informed the court that he only realised the error the night before.
THE NEW TODAY sought an explanation from the female QC, as to exactly when she made the discovery of the error on the charge sheet.
However, she refused to comment, stating that “the matter is still before the court.”
Dr. Alexis, QC, who is holding papers for Attorney-at-Law, Henry Paryag for Supt. Coutain told the court that his client was never served with the charge sheet, which according to the Criminal Code must be served on an accused person after a charge is laid.
This was disputed by Pinnock who informed the court that the accused was indeed served a copy of his charge sheet by investigating officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Earl Dunbar on July 22nd 2015.
Dr. Alexis remained adamant that his “client is sure that he has never seen a charge sheet or any other document apart from the bail form.”
He also told the court that his client is “protected by Section 67 (b) of the Criminal Procedure Code (which) entitles an accused person to be served with a copy of the charge that is proffered against him or her within, I think, its five days.”
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY following the sitting, Dr. Alexis explained that ordinarily the court does have discretion to rule withstanding five days have passed.”
“I stand on that point that Section 67(b) is protecting my client as it stands now”, he said.
The case was adjourned to December 14.
The state is optimistic that the court can get the ball rolling with the Preliminary Inquiry.
The Prosecution has a total of 12 witnesses lined up to give evidence against Supt. Coutain and Captain Harris.
THE NEW TODAY understands that there was a delay in the case due to an injury sustained by Paryag who is the defense attorney on record for the senior police officer.
Additionally, Captain Harris, who is involved in the boating industry, was on two occasions given permission by the Court to leave the jurisdiction in his professional capacity.
The State is said to be ready to proceed with the matter at the next fixed hearing date.