Magistrate Douglas Frederick found himself presiding over a brand new controversy in his District A court today, and again, it was the Police prosecution that got him there.
The drama unfolded when Frederick was hearing the cases of seven men jointly charged with a series of firearms-related and violence disorder offences dating back to May 2018.
Police prosecutors soon became the target of the magistrate’s disappointment and the defence attorneys’ ire, when prosecutor Sergeant Vernon Waithe informed the court that the case could not proceed because the prosecution did not have the full disclosure documents to present to the accused as promised at the previous sitting.
The defence then reminded Frederick of his previous ruling that today would be the final adjournment if the prosecution was not ready with the documents.
This reminder forced the magistrate to take the police to task for failing to honour their commitment and for putting him in an embarrassing position.
He told the police prosecutor: “I would not lightly write final adjournment unless I am sure you would get the file.
“You are putting me in an embarrassing position. You all aint got a shred of paper.
“Even if you have half a loaf, But you have not brought a shred of paper.”
He went on to advise the prosecutors not to take all the blame, suggesting they should spread it to those who are really responsible for not having the disclosure file ready for today.
He emphasized that he only wrote “final adjournment” based on the assurance in court from the prosecution that the promised documents would be available.
But the defence lawyers, including Queen’s Counsel Michael Lashley, and a vocal group of accused men called on Frederick to keep his word and dismiss the case for lack of prosecution.
The magistrate then gave them the commitment that if the documents were not presented by 4.30 p.m., he would throw out the case.
But the accused and the lawyer became even more outspoken as they sought to pressure the magistrate into honouring his previous commitment that there would be no more adjournments if the police were not ready with the disclosure file to start the hearing.
The prosecution had earlier informed the magistrate that the officer on the case had not completed his investigation. So, the magistrate sent for him with a message that he should bring along whatever documents were ready. But the officer came empty-handed, telling the court he was not informed about these documents.
Saying that he was trying his best not to have to dismiss this “very serious case”, Magistrate Frederick instructed the investigator to go and bring “something”.
Earlier, when the officer was asked about the commitment the prosecutors had given to have the documents completed for today, he told the court this was the first time he was hearing about it.
On his return to the court with documents, more confusion broke out, with the lawyers and the accused complaining that the statements given to them by the investigator did not connect them to the charges and that the matter should be dismissed.
Even at this stage, the magistrate was still pressing for a way out of having to throw out the matter, reminding the parties that he had until 4.30 p.m to make a decision and that there may be extenuating circumstances to justify more time.
Eventually, after verbal exchanges between the defence legal team, the magistrate and the accused men, the police investigator was given until February 10 to have all disclosure files ready, failing which the case would be dismissed.
The investigator noted he had 20 more statements to get and would be ready for the next court date.
Frederick, who had come under fire last week over his sentencing practices, had sought to clear the air surrounding his decision to bond a man who allegedly attacked his ex-girlfriend with a cutlass.
Frederick was lambasted on social media and by two women’s advocacy groups, after it was reported last Friday that he had placed Quincy Orlando John on a bond to keep the peace for six months after he admitted to assaulting his former girlfriend Natasha Lewis.
At the centre of the public outcry was Frederick’s decision to save John from incarceration while he remanded Timothy Rugrat St Pierre to prison for a week for jumping on the counter at a Chefette restaurant.
The National Organisation of Women (NOW) and Soroptomist International of Barbados publicly queried the magistrate’s ruling, suggesting that it appeared to rank business ahead of a woman’s safety.
But in a packed District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court and in the presence of NOW president Marsha Hinds, Magistrate Frederick revealed that he had not been privy to the full details of John’s case.
He said Police prosecutor Sergeant Vernon Waithe, in revealing the facts, had chosen not to divulge that John had driven his car at the complainant or that he had attacked her with a cutlass. [email protected]