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Thursday 22 February 2018

‘I exercised powers as a magistrate’

ACTING Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle says she exercised her powers as a magistrate in her own right in ordering that the preliminary inquiry involving a minor, who is before her on a murder charge, be restarted de novo (from the beginning).

This was the response from Earle- Caddle’s attorneys to the minor’s lead counsel Anand Ramlogan, SC, who has threatened to go to court to ascertain on whose instructions t Caddle gave the order to have restarted anew, the 53 part heard cases left in abeyance by her predecessor Marcia Ayers-Caesar.

In a letter to Ramlogan, dated yesterday, Earle-Caddle’s attorney Vishma Jaisingh from the firm Fitzwilliam Stone Furness-Smith and Morgan, admitted that Chief Justice Ivor Archie met with the acting chief magistrate prior to her decision to restart the case. Jaisingh said Archie did so in accordance with section 15 of the Judicial and Legal Service Act which gives him control and supervision over the office of the Chief Magistrate.

The attorney also noted that Archie discussed with Earle Caddle the question of starting over the part heard matters and Jaisingh said on May 31, Archie, in a letter confirmed the discussions and that the acting chief magistrate ‘would proceed, as agreed between them,’ to rehear the cases which would have to be aborted.

No other discussions took place, Jaisingh said. Ramlogan, on June 21, made the request of Earle Caddle seeking information on who gave the instructions to have the matters restarted and what further instructions were she given and by whom.

In his letter to Earle-Caddle, Ramlogan referred to a press release from the Court Protocol and Information Unit on May 25, 2017, which stated the “consensus was reached” and the subject part-heard matters will be heard de novo and to a subsequent letter by Archie who denied that any decision had been taking at the meeting of judges, magistrates and members of the Law Association as well as Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC.

Ramlogan further noted that the denial by the Chief Justice that the press statement was badly worded ‘had now called into question the veracity and integrity’ of Earle- Caddle’s statement in court that she had received instructions to restart the cases de novo.

Since then Ayers-Caesar has filed a lawsuit against the State and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, claiming she did not resign voluntarily but was forced to do so because of the discrepancy in the number of part heard matters she still had. She also defended magistrates in the process, saying they are not “generally not responsible” for the delays which are caused when preliminary enquiries have to be adjourned.

Ayers-Caesar said she did not intend to mislead the Chief Justice about the number of matters she had outstanding but that those cases “could easily have been dealt with by another magistrate” as the law provides for it.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has also proposed legislation to deal with the 52 part heard matters left in limbo aimed at avoiding a recurrence of a similar situation.

He has written to the Law Association seeking advice on the proposed legislation __ Miscellaneous Provisions (summary Courts and Preliminary Enquiries) Bill 2017 to treat with instances where a presiding Magistrate is unable to complete or continue a preliminary enquiry, for any reason.” The Bill proposes to “create the power” for another magistrate to conduct a “new trial or continue the trial with consent of parties”, when the presiding magistrate cannot complete it, for whatever reason.


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