A senior attorney has taken issue with the involvement of Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson in this week’s bail hearing for accused Acting Senior Superintendent of Police John Mark Annel, while suggesting that the whole issue of bail had now been thrown into a tailspin and the integrity of the local justice system compromised.
The Queen’s Counsel, who requested anonymity on the grounds that he has legal matters pending with the CJ, said the hearing could just as easily have been done by a duty judge. Therefore, he has questioned the need for Sir Marston to hear Annel application on Monday.
“It is unthinkable . . . that a Chief Justice would stop what he is doing to entertain an application for bail. Those matters are routinely performed by duty judges,” he said.
The 56-year-old senior cop of Kenrick Hutson Drive, Lucas Street, St Philip is accused of committing six offences under the Firearms Act. However, he was granted $150,000 bail in the No.1 Supreme Court on Monday night, almost five hours after Magistrate Graveney Bannister remanded him to jail.
Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale did not object to bail for the senior policeman who is being represented by Sir Richard Cheltenham and Shelly-Ann Seecharan.
Calling it a “naked display of power” by the lawyers involved, the QC also suggested that Sir Richard had treated the court system with “a large measure of disrespect”, given that he had apparently made an application in the High Court on Annel’s behalf even before his case was properly dispensed with in the magistrates’ court.
“I heard when I was going home that the lawyer informed the magistrate that an application had already been made in the High Court when the magistrate told him that he could not entertain any application for bail.
‘Now that was so injudicious coming from a very senior lawyer and I mean must be condemned because you cannot go to a higher jurisdiction until you have at least passed through the court of lower jurisdiction,” the lawyer with several decades of legal experience told Barbados TODAY, adding that “the formalities have to be gone through.
‘But to say to the magistrate, ‘ we have already made an application and we have a hearing at 4 o’clock, it is absolutely, absolutely below board and it is really a hard shot at the integrity of the system,” the passionate attorney said.
Regarding the prosecution’s decision not to object to bail in Annel’s case, the noted attorney said it was now the norm for the prosecution to object to bail “in little, mundane, routine cases of theft”.
“So the whole issue of justice appearing to be done and justice being seen to be done really went through the eddoes in this matter,” he said, while warning that the entire judicial system had been “compromised”.
As 54-year-old prison officer Robin Wesley Wiltshire of Coach Hill, St John was preparing to appear in court here today on drug charges, the attorney was adamant that “a man like him should be made an example of”. However, he said based on the rulings issued so far in the Annel case, “how can you deny him bail now? How can you deny those fellows who the courts have been trying to register its disapproval of their behaviour by refusing to grant them bail once they are found with ammunition or guns?” he asked, while repeating that the system has been compromised and that “it is as good as those who run it”.
The outspoken attorney also took issue with the position issued by attorney-at-law Arthur Holder yesterday that the developments in Annel’s case were really nothing to shout about since the senior police officer was not the first to have a matter heard on the same day.
“There is no precedent here. This has been done before. People like to be controversial even when there is no need to do so. These matters are all at the discretion of the judge and it has been done before,” Arthur told Barbados TODAY yesterday.
However, the QC said this simply did not square with the position taken by Holder a few weeks ago when bail was denied to one of his clients.
“There is a lack of consistency in the judicial system. What is fair for one needs to be fair for all,” Holder had stated after no bail was granted to his client Duane Ryan Gittens, a civil engineer of Lot 405 Westwood Drive, Husbands, St James, who was arrested on August 31 following an operation at the Bridgetown Port, conducted by the Drug Squad and Customs Enforcement Division.