‘Cutie’ gets his day in court

Attorney General Steadroy 'Cutie' Benjamin. (Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party)

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The battery of lawyers representing Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin in his forgery case wants Magistrate Ngaio Emanuel off the case and, for the “bad” charges to be dismissed.

When Magistrate Emanuel called up the case, Hugh Marshall, one of the attorneys representing the accused, told the court, “Before any charges are put to our client, there are a number of applications we’d like to make and we think they ought to be in writing … we are awaiting something from the court in order to do this.”

Marshall told Emanuel the legal team thinks there’s a perception of bias with regards to the case being tried in her court, hence they intend to formally ask her to recuse herself.

Moments before the matter was called in Emanuel’s court, there was a brief hearing before Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh who recused herself from the case.

Walsh said she was stepping aside because she had personal knowledge of the case since she was working in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) when the investigation began and she was the first person whom the investigator called.

Marshall objected when she said she would transfer the case to Magistrate Emanuel. Marshall, in his statement, said the charges were bad; there was political interference by members of the former government; there’s an abuse of process of the court and there’s no evidence against his client.

He also asked that Emanuel be recused since there’s perceived bias given her close connection to the former Attorney General, Justin Simon QC.

However, DPP, Anthony Armstrong intervened and informed Marshall that Walsh was taking the correct course of action and that she could not recuse another magistrate from the case. Armstrong said a recusal application must be made directly to the person being asked to step aside.

The chief magistrate agreed and forwarded Benjamin’s case to Magistrate Emanuel’s court next door.

There, Marshall again raised his concerns; Magistrate Emanuel took note and then gave Benjamin’s team until August 21 to file the submissions/applications for her recusal and dismissal of the case among other issues. The police prosecution team was given until September 22 to respond in writing.

Once the dates were set, the defence also called for and obtained an order for the prosecution to disclose all the evidence to be used against Benjamin at his trial.

The prosecution asked for one week to put the file together for Benjamin’s lawyers, but Marshall objected, saying, “This matter has been going on for six years, they shouldn’t need a week.”

However, the magistrate gave the prosecution until August 21 to furnish the defence with all the evidence. A seemingly agitated Benjamin, who was standing in the accused box, asked the court for a return date earlier than October 1. He turned to his lawyer and said, “I just want to get it over with.’

Benjamin and Marshall were reminded that the prosecution had until September 22 to reply, therefore an earlier date wasn’t possible.

Police Prosecutor Inspector Dave Jackson, who thanked the court for the time, revealed that six witnesses are expected to testify for the prosecution.

Benjamin is accused of three offences.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)

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