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Clerical error frees murder accused

PORT OF SPAIN — A man awaiting trial on a charge of murdering a state witness has been released from prison due to a clerical error while his co-accused has to face trial.

The error cannot be retracted.

Last Friday, Justice Malcolm Holdip permanently blocked the state from proceeding against murder accused Anthony “Tonic” Amogan on the basis of a 15-year delay to bring him to trial.

But attorneys for another man, Michael Wolf Ramdawar, also charged with the same crime, want the judge to revisit his decision to allow their client to also walk free.

Amogan and Ramdawar were jointly charged with the murder of Ramcoomar Ramoutar, who was shot dead on February 22, 1997. They were convicted for the crime in 2003 but were granted a retrial in 2006.

In his written ruling delivered last Friday, Holdip found that the delay between 1997 and 2006 does “not suggest delay that is unjustifiable”.

“At common law, even where delay is unjustifiable (which in this case it is not) a stay is only granted as exceptional circumstances, and even more rarely where there had been no fault on the part of the complainant or the prosecution,” the ruling stated.

In the paragraph that followed, the judge stated that the period of delay of 15 years and nine months “is significant and holds that the delay is unjustified”.

“Therefore, in considering all the circumstances of the case in addition to the period of delay, I hereby grant the stay of the indictment for the first named applicant (Amogan) as in this court’s view the accused cannot receive a fair trial as prejudice arises in the circumstances.”

Holdip also stated that both applicants “were unable to demonstrate actual prejudice that would render their trial unfair”.

The judge went on to dismiss a similar claim in relation to Ramdawar, saying that he was of the view that “the accused would receive a fair trial in the circumstances”. (Express)

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