Outspoken High Court Justice Carlisle Greaves heavily criticised the State for its leading role in the 16-year delay of a firearm matter being brought to trial, before staying the matter on the grounds that “it would be an abuse of process to proceed with a trial at this time”.
“In the circumstances, I decree that a stay should be granted by this court and that this matter should not be proceeded without leave of this court in the future. The indictment is stayed on the basis of abuse of process,” he declared as Damian Ramon Renaldo Harewood of Bush Hall, Yard Gap, St Michael appeared before him in Supreme Court No. 3 charged with having a firearm and 11 rounds of ammunition on August 16, 2007.
“Sixteen years and no reason has been given absolutely why this matter could have been delayed so long,” the judge said.
Pointing out that the accused had been committed to stand trial in 2009 by former Chief Magistrate Clyde Nicholls, who has long since retired, a disturbed Greaves highlighted the 10-year delay between the 2010 indictment and the 2020 arraignment.
“It took another ten years before that indictment was brought to the court for that. The defendant could not have been in any way responsible for that,” he said while pointing fingers at the State for the situation.
Harewood, who is represented by Senior Counsel Arthur Holder, filed a constitutional motion in 2022 and while an order had been made for the State to make a case for its defence since January, it had not.
Justice Greaves therefore questioned “how long was too long” for the State to give an accused a hearing.
“Is this criminal court to participate in this abuse of process by shying away from its duty to make a ruling as to whether he should go to trial, to pass the buck, so to speak, to another court?” he said.
The judge noted that Holder had brought an application to the court to consider the issue of the abuse of process if the defendant was now put to trial.
“The prosecution submits, even with some sympathy, the predicament the defendant finds himself in and that this court should leave the question to the constitutional court, since the application is already before that court, on the basis as to whether the defendant would be denied a fair trial at this point due to the delay,” Justice Greaves stated.
Calling the dismissal of an indictment “the most draconian action a court may take”, he said when other remedies are available, the court would be “reluctant to stay an indictment permanently”.
Such a remedy, he said, would include an adjustment to the sentence. However, he outlined the difficulties with that action, noting that if Harewood went to trial and was convicted, he would be subject to a prison sentence of eight to 10 years. The judge said after the mitigating and aggravating factors were considered, a substantial deduction would have to be made due to the delay, at three months per year, as well as other aspects.
“He would not be subject to no years. He would go home today if the trial was today,” the judge contended. “So on what basis are we to put the taxpayers at this time to delay further and have an expensive trial? I see none.”
Justice Greaves also said the delay and mitigating factors would also significantly reduce any default period for failing to pay a fine if one was imposed.