Protest ‘organisers’ will walk free if prosecutors continue to delay case

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Donette Simon (left) and Shenel Williams
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By Latrishka Thomas

[email protected]

In the event that the prosecution is still not ready next month to proceed with its case against two women charged with organising the infamous ‘Freedom Fighters’ protest last August, the case will be thrown out.

This is because the defence has already been waiting several months for the police to produce the file containing the evidence they gathered.

Donette Simon of Tindale Road and Shenel Williams of Villa were among several persons arrested after a demonstration against Covid-related rules on August 8 2021 during which police used tear-gas and fired rubber bullets.

The women are jointly accused of “organising a prohibited public meeting” and participating in said event.

Williams is also charged with incitement and encouraging unlawful behaviour.

The duo first appeared before Magistrate Conliffe Clarke a few days after the protest, accompanied by a team of lawyers including Leon Symister, Wendel Robinson and Charlesworth Tabor.

The lawyers requested that a plea not be taken because they needed the police file and other documents before moving forward.

The matter was then adjourned to November and the prosecution was given a set time to disclose the file.

But in November the order still had not been complied with and the attorneys were not present in court so the conclusion of the matter was delayed again.

When the case was called again yesterday, the prosecution requested one final adjournment saying that the file was only completed on Monday and they intend to serve the defence in 24 hours.

The defence, being tired of the adjournments, made an application to have the matter dismissed saying “clearly the police don’t have any interest in the matter”.

“There can be no reasonable excuse for not being ready today,” Symister said.

He then questioned what evidence had been used to arrest his clients, noting that the police are still not ready six months later for a summary matter.

“Justice delayed will continue to be justice denied,” he said.

The prosecution rebutted by imploring the magistrate to use his “discretion” having seen that the charge is serious in nature although not indictable.

Magistrate Clarke agreed that “it has been well enough time for the police to get its act in order”, but he reminded the lawyers that the adjournment in November was due to their absence in court.

He therefore granted one final adjournment and declared, “If we cannot start then, I am going to dismiss this matter completely.”

Disclosure was also ordered to be made within 24 hours and the next date set for March 2 where the women will enter pleas.

Should they deny committing the offences, the trial should proceed on that very day.

Simon, 34, and Williams, 29, are currently on bail, having been granted temporary release in the sum of $15,000 with a $1,000 cash component at their first court appearance.

They were also asked to satisfy the $1,000 cash component of the bail, surrender all their travel documents, provide two Antiguan sureties, remain residents of their current abode, report to the nearest police station three times a week, and to notify the police three days prior to moving to a different address.

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