By Latrishka Thomas
As the skies grew ashen outside of the High Court yesterday afternoon, moods were tense inside while Justice Colin Williams delivered his verdict.
However, it turned out to be a great day for former Education Minister Michael Browne when he was acquitted of the two serious criminal charges against him, on his mother’s birthday no less.
The judge spent about two hours scrutinising the evidence the court received during the trial which lasted more than two weeks.
In the end, the scales of justice tilted in the favour of the Member of Parliament for All Saints West because, according to the judge, the Crown did not prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Browne was guilty.
Browne was visibly pleased and moved quickly out of the courtroom where he was congratulated by many people present.
The MP merely said to Observer, “happy birthday to my mother”.
The two charges being debated in what was supposed to be a three-day judge-only trial were laid in November 2020, a month after the alleged crime took place.
The exact charges cannot be disclosed for legal reasons.
In April this year, Magistrate Ngaio Emanuel-Edwards declared that there was enough evidence against Browne and therefore sent the matter up to the High Court for trial.
After the matter was indicted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, it was called in July for the MP to be arraigned.
Browne maintained that he was completely innocent.
The trial began on November 26 with evidence from the complainant.
The defendant was represented by a three-member defence team led by Dr David Dorsett who was assisted by Sir Gerald Watt QC and Jarid Hewlett.
Throughout the trial, about five persons testified and Browne ended the presentation of evidence.
The prosecution and the defence gave strong closing arguments but, as stated in the law where there is doubt about a defendant’s guilt, he or she cannot be convicted.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Observer that “if [Browne] is cleared of the allegations, then he is eligible to continue in the governance of our country”.
After he was charged last year, Browne was removed from his post as education minister in late November and replaced by the then Minister of Festivals, Daryll Matthew.
However, according to the Prime Minister, while Browne will resume his duties within the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party administration, it may not be as the minister of education.