Ruling on no case submission in Ray John trial expected

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Justice Tunde Bakre could rule on an application to dismiss the ongoing passport fraud case against Ray John and his associates sooner than expected.

Suspended Superintendent of Police Ray John and his former partner Shakema Charles are on trial for allegedly conspiring with Vincentian resident Lonzel Jones to forge passport bio pages using unauthorised Multi-Layered Infilling Sheets between January 1 and April 7, 2018.

Charles, who worked at the Antigua and Barbuda Passport Office, was accused of conspiring with John, who allegedly received 16 of the infilling sheets.

Evidence presented at the trial suggested that John and Charles provided infilling sheets and other documents to Jones in St Vincent, with John allegedly promising Jones a substantial compensation for creating fake passport bio pages.

The defence team of Hugh Marshall Jr for John, and Michael Archibald for Charles, had argued nearly two weeks ago that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient to support a finding of guilt.

However, Justice Tunde Bakre ruled last week that the court’s concern at that stage was whether there was a prima facie case against the defendants, not the weight of the evidence.

Undeterred, Marshall made another application, asserting that only the receiving charge can be tried by a judge alone under the Criminal Proceedings (Trial by Judge Alone) Act and that the accused did not give consent for any other charges to be tried without a jury.

Justice Tunde Bakre, who had been presiding over the trial for the past few weeks, was expected to rule on the matter on March 8, but that ruling date was brought up to March 5.

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Shannon Jones-Gittens expressed frustration with the defence for waiting until this stage to make such an application, accusing them of “attempting to derail the trial.”

She argued that the defence knew since 2021 that the matter was being treated as such and never objected.

She also posited that although conspiracy is not listed as a judge-only matter, forgery is, and since the charge in question is conspiracy to forge, it must be included with the substantive offense.

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