Magistrates’ errors lead to retrials for two men

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: The Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

ERRORS by three magistrates in three separate cases have led to two of them being remitted for new trials, while no new trial was ordered for a third.

At a hearing of Port of Spain magisterial appeals on Thursday, Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed and Maria Wilson allowed two appeals by the State after the magistrates hearing those cases dismissed them without reason. The third was an appeal by a man who was charged for failing to provide a breath specimen and using insulting language.

The first two appeals involved charges of possession of a knife to commit an indictable offence and possession of cocaine.

In the first matter, the State, represented by deputy DPP George Busby, argued that the magistrate – now a High Court judge – erred when she dismissed the case of possession of a knife against Ryan Trotman.

Busby said the magistrate had given no reasons for dismissing the appeal, but what was clear from the file was that on the day the matter was dismissed, it was actually listed “for mention.”

He said it would be in the public’s interest to send the matter back for determination before a new magistrate.

The judges agreed, allowed the State’s appeal and ordered a retrial for Trotman.

Busby also argued that in the matter of Anthony Lopez, who was before the court for possession of cocaine for trafficking, which was also dismissed by a magistrate, it appeared the case was also dismissed on a date when it was set for mention, although the prosecution was ready and the accused was present and represented.

The judges also agreed with Busby’s submissions and remitted the matter to a new magistrate for trial.

In Renison McPherson’s appeal of his conviction for failing to provide a breath specimen and using insulting language, Busby was forced to concede. He said as in the other cases, the magistrate failed to give reasons but at the trial, after testimony by the prosecution’s two witnesses, the magistrate was not willing to wait for McPherson’s attorney to arrive in court for cross-examination.

He said in no way was McPherson afforded a fair trial. He did not ask for a new trial.

In their ruling on the appeal, Mohammed and Wilson said the magistrate failed to assist McPherson when he was obligated to do so as a judicial officer.

Busby was commended for his position on the appeal.