Crown prosecutor seeks to clear the air and educate

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Crown Counsel Adlai Smith is seeking to further enlighten the public about the procedures set out for the prosecution and the court as the public debate continues about a recently withdrawn case against a middle aged man wrongly accused of having sex with an “underage” girl.
Smith, who earlier called for the mother of the complainant to be charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, is weighing in this time as he and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, through which he works, have been criticised by some commenters who said it took too long for the office to withdraw the case.
Other commenters also criticised Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh, who
sent the case to the High Court for trial though the defence had highlighted that the complainant was over the age of consent; and they further condemned the police prosecution for not withdrawing the case in the magistrate’s court and likewise they chastised the police investigators who charged the accused without evidence of a birth certificate or other documents to prove the girl was the age she claimed to be.
The three condemnations came because the man was charged for having sex with a 15-year-old minor, when in fact the complainant was 16 and not a minor – thus there was no crime.
Smith, who only had conduct of the matter from September 14, only defended what occurred after the matter was committed for trial, leaving the other parties, who have been silent, to offer their own explanations.
He said, generally, as it relates to the discontinuation of cases once a magistrate has already committed it for trial in the High Court, those matters can only be withdrawn before a judge after the filing of an indictment.
“Notwithstanding the intention to withdraw it, a formal indictment still has to be prepared to bring the accused person to court for the purpose of withdrawal,” he said.
As noted before, this case, along with several others, only got to him on September 14, 2018, in preparation for the arraignment which was set for September 25 – and the latter date, which was when the criminal assizes started, would have been the first time that the accused would have had to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At that stage, a likely trial date may also be set.
In this particular case, since the prosecution knew it was not going to offer any evidence against the accused sex offender, he was asked to enter a plea, after, High Court Justice Iain Morley was informed of the facts as to the age of the complainant and the said judge was simply required to make a formal pronouncement of not guilty on the day of arraignment.
Smith went on, “That matter along with several others came up for arraignment which happens at the beginning of each assizes. Arraignment means simply that the accused person has the charge/s read to him and he indicates to the court whether he wishes to plead guilty or not guilty. No jury is empaneled to hear cases on that day as it is the day that jury orientation takes place. At arraignment the prosecution may decide that it is not proceeding with a case and indicate that before the court.”
Last week, Smith urged that the police should charge the mother of the teen who complained, citing that the mother was the one who advised the girl to lie about her age.
The teen gave two statements in the matter: one in early March 2017 (where she gave her incorrect age) and the other in late March 2017 (where she gave her correct age).
Lawmen charged the man who the teen said had sex with her, after she made her first statement indicating she was born in December 2000, making her 15 years old when they allegedly had sex in mid 2016.
However, after the man was charged and taken to court, the second statement was taken and it was then the girl, who was not born in Antigua and Barbuda, gave her correct age.
Earlier, Smith reported, “The complainant told the police that her mother told her to say that her birthday was in December 2000 ‘because the police wouldn’t have done anything about it and that is because my sister and I are old’. She also gave her correct date of birth in that second statement as December 1999.”
And, he further said, “She [the mother] has caused the accused in this matter to suffer unnecessarily for whatever clandestine motive she may have. It is my firm view that when conduct such as this raises its head, it must be dealt with and dealt with severely. Otherwise the system of justice will fall into disrepute and the citizenry will not have confidence in it.”
The matter surfaced when an audio file of the girl’s voice, along with the man’s, was leaked. And, the duo was heard negotiating the cost the man should pay for sex, while the girl reminded the individual that he’s the older of the two.

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