An application to have a complainant pay costs to the court after he no longer wanted the accused in his case to be tried, was denied by a High Court judge yesterday.
Michael Ansara Moore of Bath Land, St John was to be tried for robbing Cortell Gittens of $100 on February 21, 2007. However, while Moore sat in the dock, Gittens came to the witness stand in Supreme Court No. 2 and stated that he no longer wanted to pursue the matter.
After establishing that the complainant had come to that decision of his own free will, Crown Counsel Tamar Grant told the court that the matter would have engaged “the time and resources of all persons involved” in bringing the matter through the system, including the police, typist, magistrate and others.
She therefore made an application on behalf of the Crown for Gittens to “pay costs for wasting the court’s time.”
When he was questioned by the prosecutor, Gittens recalled giving evidence in the Magistrates Court but said he “thought it was finished with”.
Justice Weekes then asked the prosecution to give legal authority for their request.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard, QC, then rose in support of the application, adding that even though she had no such authority with her at the time, the court could be furnished with it at a later date.
She reminded the court that it had a “wide jurisdiction” and could impose costs on the complainant if it deemed it fit. The senior prosecutor added that for a matter to reach the level of the High Court, it meant that it had gone from the Magistrates Court level to being committed and had already engaged the services of police officers, court personnel and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
She also said that it was a 2007 matter which had moved quickly through the system and had been committed since December 2008.
It should not be allowed to continue that “a complainant can come here and say, ‘you know what? I’m no longer continuing with this matter,” Babb-Agard stressed.
She went on to say that the Press carries stories about delays within the court system and even while they were doing their job, it does not help when a complainant decides to drop a matter, except in circumstances where their experience was traumatic or they had undergone counselling.
“We do not want to set a precedent that this is the norm,” she said. “They need to feel it somewhere. We can’t sent them to prison so the only other way they can feel it is in their pockets.”
Justice Weekes said even though she agreed in general with the position of the prosecutors that there were certain circumstances where discretion to order costs could be applied. In Gitten’s case there was the absence of information regarding why the matter took from 2007 until now to reach the High Court.
The judge therefore ruled that she would not order Gittens to pay costs under the circumstances.