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Defence attorneys make second attempt to dismiss passport fraud case

The defense, led by Hugh Marshall Jr., argued that the High Court had no jurisdiction to try the matter

Ray John outside High Court Feb 29 2024 (IPB photo)

Attorneys representing suspended Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ray John and former passport worker Shakeema Charles, made a second attempt to have the case dismissed, when the trial resumed on Thursday morning. 

Moments after High Court judge, justice Tundre Bakre announced that he would not uphold a no case submission filed by the defence attorneys, lead attorney Hugh Marshall Jr. applied to have the years-old case dismissed on the grounds that the High Court had no jurisdiction to try the matter. ‘’These are not matters that should be before you, your Lordship,’’ he said. 

Bakre dismissed the ‘no case’ submission, citing that at this stage, the court was more concerned as to whether there was a case to answer, rather than the admissibility of the evidence presented. ‘’The defendants shall be called to answer the allegations against them,’’ he declared.

Marshall Jr. and Michael Archibald had argued in their earlier submission that the search warrants which led to the evidence presented in court and the manner in which they were tendered were ‘’defective’’. Bakre did not agree. 

So, immediately after his ruling, Marshall Jr. posited that the judge had no jurisdiction over indictments 1 and 2 which are both conspiracies to forge charges and on the third matter of receiving, he argued that it was a ‘’misdemeanor’’ that should be tried in the magistrate’s court.

Defence attorney’s argument for dismissal

Section 4 of the Criminal Proceedings (Trial by Judge Alone) Act 2021 lists the offences that can be tried by a judge alone. And although indictable offences under the forgery act is among that list, Marshall Jr. argued that conspiracy is not. 

He also highlighted Section 5 of the act which states that for an accused person to be tried by a judge only outside of those charges, the prosecution must seek their permission. ‘’None was sought and none was given,’’ he declared. 

His argument in essence is that if the charge does not form part of the list, the judge therefore has no jurisdiction to try the case. ‘’It’s not just that your Lordship has no jurisdiction, the indictment is barred,’’ he stated. 

On the third charge of receiving, he reasoned that it was also not listed and in any case, given the summary amount of the passport bio page sheets, it would be considered as a summary charge or ‘’misdemeanor’’. ‘’It appears that your hands are tied in respect to each and every count on the indictment,’’ Marshall contended. 

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In response, a baffled acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shannon Jones-Gittens felt that the defense ‘’was once again seeking to derail the trial.’’ She insisted that they were using a ‘’literal interpretation’’ of the legislation and by doing so were deliberately excluding that these charges include ‘’inchoate offences’’.‘’No forgery case can be tried in a magistrate’s court,’’ the ag. DPP declared.  

She further declared that by the attorneys’ actions in not bringing up this argument in 2021 when the case was first committed to the High Court, they had accepted that the matter is one that can be tried by a judge alone. 

She claimed too that the defense had seemingly thought of this ‘’over the weekend’’ because they had not previously brought up the matter. But Marshall denied that claim, stating that he brought it to the prosecution’s attention ‘’as soon as they realised’.

Justice Bakre adjourned the trial until March 8 when he will deliver his ruling on the matter of jurisdiction but said that he would inform both parties if a decision is made before then.

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