President of the Prison Officers’ Association Trevor Browne has been cleared of sedition charges but the matter appears far from over.
After Chief Magistrate Ian Weekes informed the embattled prison officer that he had been found not guilty and was free to go, the prosecution served notice of its intention to appeal while Browne revealed that he would be “taking legal action as to what they did to me”.
Browne had been accused of maliciously endeavouring to incite fellow officers David Davis, Ophneal Austin, Shanell Ellis-Vaughn and Stephenson Trotman to take part in a sickout between May 1 and May 9, 2018.
However, Chief Magistrate Weekes freed him of the charges after expressing “concerns and doubts” about the case.
“The match done, I win!” Browne could be heard saying as he left the precincts of the Supreme Court where the matter was heard today.
Speaking to the media after he declared: “I feel relieved, I feel so relieved.
“This is about two months short of three years I have been battling (this case) and anybody that knows Trevor Browne knows what going to happen next. I will be taking legal action. I will be taking legal action as to what they did to me.”
As to his next move as head of the association he added: “My desire right now is to give an account of my stewardship and let the officers know how their monies were spent. I have some ideas that I would communicate to staff.”
However, he said in terms of his job he would have to first discuss the matter “with my family in relation to passing in St Philip”.
During closing arguments today, Inspector Janice Ifill who prosecuted the case along with Station Sergeant Crishna Graham and Sergeants Victoria Taitt and Verdon Forde urged the court to look at the case against Browne “wholesomely”.
She charged that Browne used the “modus operandi” of seeking out the prison officers while they were on duty to ask them about some sick days.
She submitted that his attempt was one of seduction or malicious seductiveness.
“It does not mean that it had to be done . . . the matter before the court is an attempt . . . those are all the points needed to prove this matter before the court,” said Ifill even as she agreed with the defence that “it was a he say, and she say case”.
The prosecutor charged however that the case was eight prosecution witnesses versus one from the defence, who was Browne.
“Part of his modus operandi was when he pulled them apart, away from everybody so that the conversation remained he say or she say – it is eight to one.
“It is simple. The accused is charged for attempting to seduce the prison officers from their duties, that is the only matter that is before this court . . . a serious matter, a matter of national security,” the Crown’s representative added.
However, Browne’s attorneys Andrew Pilgrim Q.C. and Kamisha Benjamin disagreed arguing that there was “no evidence” to support any of the accounts in the case.
In fact, Pilgrim reminded the court that two of the complainants gave no evidence about the offence and as such bringing a lot of witnesses was “not going to cut it”.
“I urge the court not to be moved by the fact that it is eight to one; not to be moved by the fact that the prosecution said this is a matter of national security . . . These things don’t move courts, the courts are moved by evidence and proof. I submit to the court that the prosecution has fallen woefully short of the (mark) that is required beyond reasonable doubt,” Pilgrim said.
In handing down his ruling Chief Magistrate Weekes disclosed that he had concerns and was “curious” about the case.
“I must say that because of my use of the word curious I really have not been satisfied with the prosecution’s case.
He said in terms of the total case, under the Prison Act, “This court will be in a strange and dangerous place given the nature of what the Prison Act says . . . I definitely have my doubts in this matter,” Weekes stated.
The case against Browne was brought under Section 27 of the Prison Act.
“I believe that it was partially a rush to judgement especially on behalf of the chief investigator and with those doubts and this court’s obligation by law . . . I am not satisfied as I should be in respect of the prosecution’s case.
“Given all of those circumstances I have found you not guilty – you are free to go,” Weekes said to Browne as Sergeant Taitt informed the court of the Crown’s intention to appeal.