No DPP prosecutor yet, so Scoon case goes to October

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Adrian Scoon –

BUSINESSMAN Adrian Scoon will return to court in October, since an attorney from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is yet to be appointed.

Scoon will appear in court on charges of breaching public health regulations on public gatherings, holding a public party and operating a party boat without permission, arising out of a Boxing Day brunch on the Ocean Pelican vessel last year,

On Monday, magistrate Kerianne Byer officially read out the charges to him and party promoter Shadeed Abdullah.

Both men pleaded not guilty.

Scoon, Abdullah and 90 others, said to be patrons of the brunch, were all charged in March. They first appeared on March 21 before Byer, who at the time said she was not going to take their individual pleas, since the court had been told the Office of the DPP would be taking over conduct of the matter.

At Monday’s hearing, she was told a prosecutor from the DPP’s office had not been assigned, as the police file was expected to be sent to that office in the next two weeks.

Byer set the next adjourned date as October 10, as she said, in her experience, it takes any time from a year to six months to have a prosecutor from the DPP’s office assigned to a case.

Scoon’s attorney Larry Williams objected to the long adjournment, saying he could walk from Chaguaramas, where the alleged incident occurred, to Port of Spain in less time.

“By then we might have a cure for the coronavirus,” he added.

Byer urged the police to act on sending the file to the DPP’s office, warning that she did not want it collecting dust on any officer’s desk.

Williams also rejected any attempt by the magistrate to “amend” one of the charges against his client when she raised the issue at the start of the virtual hearing. He said if the police mixed up the regulations under which his client was charged, the prosecution had to apply to have the charge amended.

“The court cannot decide the regulation is wrong and change it,” he said.

Williams also complained that he had not been served with the complaints against his client and had only received two summaries of evidence from the police. He also asked for all documentary evidence seized by police during their searches of Scoon’s apartment and businessplace to be returned, now that a High Court judge had set aside the warrants the police used to seize evidence.

Williams said all the police returned was an iPhone, laptops and a USB drive. He said any other evidence seized by the police using the warrants cannot be used against his clients, as it was “fruit from the poisoned tree.”

On Friday, Justice Ricky Rahim set aside the warrants since neither the justice of the peace who authorised them nor the State filed a defence, led evidence or made submissions opposing Scoon’s challenge to the validity of the warrants.

Having determined the claim on its merits, he declared the decision of the JP to authorise the warrants to search Scoon’s premises was unlawful, null and void and of no effect and that the decision to issue a warrant to extract data from Scoon’s computers and cellphones was also unlawful.

Rahim’s ruling followed that of Justice Geoffrey Henderson who in March denied a police request for a special warrant under the Interception of Communications Act to force Scoon to give them the passwords to the electronic devices so that the police could search for information about the promotion of the Boxing Day event.

Henderson said the request was excessive and disproportionate, in light of the fact that investigators were seeking evidence that Scoon advertised the event on social media.

Also on Monday, most of the other 90 others appeared in batches at the virtual hearing, some from their offices, home, maxi-taxis or their attorneys’ offices. Those who were properly served with summonses also pleaded not guilty to the public-gathering charge.

Those who were not properly served, and chose not to waive service, were also told to return on October 10.

Scoon has insisted he had permission to run the vessel as a floating restaurant and complied with safe-zone protocols.

The police’s searches came after the comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division reportedly revoked the special restaurant licences issued to him for the Ocean Pelican. Finance Minister Colm Imbert revealed he had raised concerns over granting them because of pandemic restrictions.