An attorney today took the Crown to task, charging that there has been “unbridled lethargy” in a matter in which his client’s human rights were being infringed.
Larry Smith, QC, who is representing murder accused Larry Patrick Agard in his Constitutional motion against the Attorney General, made the charge before Justice Cicely Chase.
Smith’s comments came as lead attorney for the Crown, acting Deputy Solicitor General Roger Barker sought an adjournment in the matter which was scheduled to start this morning.
At the previous hearing, Justice Chase had given Smith 24 hours to file affidavits to allow Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim and Ajamu Boardi to appear as witnesses, with the Crown given until Thursday to respond.
However, while Smith said he was prepared to begin, Barker told the court his team, which included Senior Crown Counsel Cherisse Whitehall-Small, Jared Richards and Nicole Boyce, was not in a position to do so, as he had been unable to file his affidavit.
He said Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Donna Babb-Agard had indicated she required a “minimum of two weeks” to do so.
But an emotional Smith, in his response, accused the Crown of dragging its feet on the matter.
He contended that more than 14 years after his client had been charged with the June 8, 2006, murder of Marville John, and even though this was his second Constitutional motion, the Crown was still not moving with a sense of alacrity.
“This is a matter of human rights…In the first Constitutional motion the finding was that his rights had been breached by the Crown and they were going to release him on bail and that was done.
“One would have thought that the need to move from a stage of unbridled lethargy to one of hastened alacrity would have informed the Crown’s position in relation to Mr Agard’s matter, but no. Here we are today almost nine years after the order of Madame Justice Cornelius…to hear another application, for what would be, we submit with respect, not a new breach, a continuing breach of Mr Agard’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
“It means therefore that we are in a state of ongoing breach of Mr Agard’s Section 18 (1) right to a fair trial in a reasonable time…At some time this has to stop! This kind of approach to the citizenry must stop!”
Smith argued that his client’s life mattered and that the Crown’s lethargic stance was unacceptable.
He cited three other cases, including one in which a man had spent ten years in prison, only for the charge to be eventually dropped for a lack of evidence.
He said even in those circumstances the Crown was opposed to paying the accused compensation.
“Mr Agard’s life matters and this kind of approach where because we think someone is in the working class strata of the society, we can treat them as we like, ought not to be countenance by the courts in this country,” the Queen’s Counsel said.
“…The Crown seems to think that because we can give you rights we can trample them as we feel like, when we feel like. It is an abhorrent state of affairs…It is an unsavory and unsatisfactory state of affairs. The Crown can and must do better on behalf of the citizens of this country.”
In his response, Barker reminded the court that it was Smith who had sought to introduce the witnesses at the last moment, and as such the fault was not theirs.
He said the Crown had to make sure its “house was in order” before proceeding.
After a 40 minute break, Justice Chase ruled in favour of the Crown, giving them the 14 days requested.
Justice Chase said she must allow the DPP to put its position before the court.
She however, reminded both sides that the case before her was “an urgent matter” and “a very serious matter” which needed to be dealt with as swiftly as possible.
She then set aside the matter for July 28 and 29, when it is expected to begin. [email protected]
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