The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal has struck out an appeal brought against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Christopher Nelson, QC, by His Honour, Magistrate Jerry Seales in an alleged rape incident that dates back to January 2011.
The appeal stemmed from the arrest of Victoria, St. Mark resident and well known businessman, Curtis Baptiste, who was 63-years-old at the time he was arrested on a charge of raping a 13-year-old girl.
A Preliminary Inquiry into the allegations commenced before Magistrate Seales, at the Victoria Magistrate’s Court in January 2011, with a total of 5 witnesses by the State.
However, in May 2011, after hearing evidence from only three of the witnesses including the victim herself, Magistrate Seales took the position that there was not sufficient evidence to make out a case without the other two witnesses being called to testify.
As a result, Baptiste became a free man and DPP Nelson sought to re-institute the rape charge again but Magistrate Seales did not entertain it.
The DPP reacted by commencing judicial review proceedings against the Magistrate in an effort to get him to continue with the PI into the allegations of rape brought against Baptiste.
Female high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed, who heard the judicial review application on June 25, 2013 ruled in favour of the DPP, having expressed the view that Magistrate Seales had wrongfully discharged the rape accused, who, was represented by prominent Attorney-at-Law, Lloyd Noel, a former attorney general.
The Trinidad-born female judge also ordered Magistrate Seales to continue and complete the PI into the allegation against Baptiste, who was once associated with the failed multi-million dollar poultry project in St. Mark’s, in which he felt that he was given a rotten deal by a former Keith Mitchell-led government.
Not pleased with the ruling, Magistrate Seales who currently presides over the No. 3 Magistrate’s Court (Traffic Court) in St. George’s, took the decision to appeal Justice Mohammed’s judgment.
However, when the matter came up before the appeal court, which sat on island during the first week in April, the presiding Justices of appeal – Davidson Baptiste, Paul Webster and Lady Gretel Thom – upheld Justice Mohammed’s judgment and ruled that Magistrate Seales had a right to hear all the evidence in the PI against Baptiste before making his decision and in effect struck out Magistrate Seales appeal.
The Justices of Appeal agreed with the DPP, who felt that “Magistrate Seales had no right of appeal from Justice Mohammed’s ruling for a judicial review into the matter, because of its criminal nature.
Commenting on the ruling in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Tuesday, DPP Nelson, QC expressed satisfaction with the judgment and noted that “what caught the attention of the Appeal Court was that there was an eye witness who allegedly caught the complainant and the accused in a very compromising position.
He also said that this evidence was led before the Magistrate and based on that evidence alone Seales should have committed Baptiste to trial.
The DPP also pointed out that, “in a PI the (presiding) Magistrate should commit (to trial), if any other offence is made out by the evidence presented to the court but he (Magistrate Seales) did not and we saw it as a grave injustice and we sought to put the matter right and His Honour resisted it all the way through”.
“In other words if the offence charge is not made out, if the same evidence is sufficient to prove any other indictable offence, you must commit…you don’t throw it out, you commit to trial and we decide what are the relevant charges based on the evidence”, he added.