A man accused of defrauding a hardware store in 2001 has been freed by the Court of Appeal after the State conceded there were merits in his complaints.
Chandradath Singh had been charged with obtaining credit of $348,739.27 from Union Steel Hardware by fraud from November 27-December 10, 2001.
Singh was charged on January 23, 2003.
When he appeared before a San Fernando magistrate, the prosecution recommended a summary trial and he agreed. He pleaded not guilty.
At the end of the trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to three years of hard labour.
Singh appealed and last week, Appeal Court judges Mark Mohammed and Maria Wilson allowed the appeal and discharged him after assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal submitted there were merits in two of the four grounds of appeal advanced by Singh’s attorneys, Jagdeo Singh and Vashisht Seepersad.
The State did not ask for a retrial, since one of the witnesses was now dead, while the other had migrated.
In the appeal. Singh’s attorneys submitted that the magistrate, Brambhanan Dubay, erred when he unlawfully admitted inadmissible hearsay evidence of two witnesses. The attorneys argued that the evidence of the two witnesses could not be admitted, as it did not adhere to the Evidence Act, which permits such evidence in certain circumstances which, they said, were not met.
“This glaring and rudimentary error by the learned magistrate amounted to a substantial material irregularity within the course of the trial and resulted in a miscarriage of justice.”
The attorneys also argued the sentence was oppressive and unlawful, since the magistrate did not have the authority to impose a penalty that exceeded the maximum. Singh was charged under section 34(3) of the Larceny Act, which carries a one-year prison term.
“Arguably, the learned magistrate has a judicial discretion to adapt a penalty to the nature of the crime but this must be within the parameters of the maximum penalty imposed,” the attorneys said.