Man on sexual offences charges appeals a master’s orders under new law

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A MAN charged with a series of sexual offences is challenging the decision by a master of the High Court to adjourn his sufficiency hearing after the State failed to abide by the court’s directions for the filing of key evidence against him.

Under the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act (AJIPA), which brought an end to preliminary inquiries in the magistrates’ court, a master has to hold a sufficiency hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial on an indictable offence.

In the man’s case, the sufficiency hearing was set for April 30. However, after the State failed to abide by the master’s order, the man’s attorneys, Peter Carter, Yves Jacques Nicholson and Mariah Ramrattan, applied for his discharge.

This was dismissed by the master, who varied the timetable for the State to provide the relevant evidence against him after an application for an extension was sought.

The master also set a new sufficiency hearing for September 11. However, the man’s attorneys appealed the master’s decision. On July 8, Justice of Appeal Maria Wilson stayed the sufficiency hearing and expedited the man’s appeal, which will be heard on October 17.

In his appeal, the man contends the master failed to consider the criminal procedure rules and by doing so, led to him suffering prejudice.

The appeal argues that because of the new legislative scheme for indictable offences, it was crucial that “missteps” be corrected as it could create an unnecessary backlog, which AJIPA sought to fix.

The grounds of appeal contend the master erred when she dismissed his application for his discharge; when she extended the time for the State to file and serve the indictment, all witness statements and other documentary evidence; when she converted the sufficiency hearing into a status hearing; and by failing to specify the consequences for the failure to comply with her “scheduling orders” in keeping with the criminal rules.

The appeal calls on the court to discharge the accused or remit the matter to the master to redetermine the application for discharge.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Danielle Thompson did not object to the matter being expedited. She also informed the judge an indictment had been filed in compliance with the master’s extension on April 30.