Attorney Vonda Pile will not be practicing law for the foreseeable future after she lost an appeal against her theft conviction and three-year sentence before the Barbados Court of Appeal on Friday.
However, Pile’s legal counsel Andrew Pilgrim Q.C. has already signalled their intention to take the matter before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – Barbados’ highest court.
Pile was found guilty, by a 7-2 majority verdict, on June 5, 2019 of stealing $191,416.39 (US$96,008.22) from former client Anstey King between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010. The money was earmarked for the purchase of land. She was however acquitted on the charge of money laundering.
The trial judge Justice Pamela Beckles in September 2019 sentenced Pile to three years in prison less 94 days.
However, months after she was jailed, the well known lawyer of 27 years’ practice was granted bail following an appeal.
After over a year on bail however, Pile was today sent back to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds in St Philip to serve the remainder of the sentence.
The development came when the panel of Appeal Justices Rajendra Narine, Jefferson Cumberbatch and Francis Belle “unanimously” upheld the jury’s verdict and judge’s sentence.
“The conviction was . . . not disturbed. The appeal is therefore dismissed. Conviction and sentence are affirmed. Sentence will therefore run from the day the sentence was imposed. Time already spent serving sentence before bail was accessed will be deducted from the sentence – this is the unanimous decision,” Justice Belle said this morning as he gave a summary of the panel’s 40-page decision.
Pile had challenged the verdict and sentence on a number of grounds, the majority of which the Court of Appeal judges “rejected”.
Among them was that the court failed to withdraw the case from the jury at the end of the prosecution’s case; the trial judge failed to remedy the prejudicial evidence given by two of the Crown’s witnesses and that it was an abuse of process for the Crown to proceed with the charge of money laundering. The defense also argued that the trial judge failed to adequately put the appellant’s case to the jury – which the Appeal Judges described as “untrue;” and that the trial judge failed to direct the jury on several issues of law.
Another ground was that the judge failed to give the customary “good character” direction to the jury.
“On this matter the court felt that this was indeed an omission of the judge’s directions to the jury. It is clearly the law that the appellant was entitled to the good character direction and this probably should have been on both limbs [of] credibility and the propensity to commit the offence. . .
“However, we also concluded that that omission was not fatal, since based on the strength and the evidence of the case – the jury would have inevitably convicted the appellant,” Justice Belle stated as he brought the matter – in which the respondent was represented by Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney and Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas and Kevin Forde – to a close.
The sum of money for which Pile was convicted was part of a larger amount for the purchase of land at Maxwell, Christ Church.
During the trial it was revealed that King had sent the deposit and purchase money to Pile with whom he had previously done business. He subsequently came to Barbados but after seeing the land said it was not the plot that he had agreed to purchase and requested his money back.
Pile returned a portion of the funds but after several demands for the remainder, King took the matter to the police resulting in charges of theft and money laundering. ([email protected])