Over to CCJ
Regional court to rule on police testimony
The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Barbados’ highest appellate court, is to rule on how far police witnesses can go in giving evidence before the local law courts and the directions they should receive from presiding judges.
The need to bring clarity on these issues emerged Tuesday during a case management hearing for an appeal to the CCJ in which Clarence Sealy, an elderly man who was sentenced on September 11, 2012 for raping a six-year-old girl, is seeking leave from the regional court to appeal the local Court of Appeal’s split judgement in his case.
In the hearing, which was done via videoconference in a room at the Barbados Supreme Court, the CCJ was asked to pay special attention to the opinions of Justices of Appeal Sherman Moore and Sandra Mason who, with Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, made up the Appeal Court in that case.
Moore and Mason had determined that the trial judge in the Sealy case had properly exercised her discretion by permitting 2 police officers to read aloud from their notebooks, unauthenticated oral statements attributed to Sealy.
However, Sir Marston made a different determination and agreed with the convicted man’s position. He wrote: “I find that there is, however, some merit in the appellant’s contentions regarding the reading aloud from the officers’ notebooks.”
He went on: “As will soon appear, the judge’s error was to treat the grant of leave to refresh memory and the grant of leave to read aloud as coterminous. They are not.”
The Crown initially objected to this application at the hearing. But, after the CCJ repeatedly requested to know if the law was in serious need of clarification in Barbados because there was the dissenting judgment of the Chief Justice on the point of whether police officers should be allowed to read aloud from their notes, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock agreed with the suggestion for urgent clarity.
Leacock conceded that once the CCJ could provide such clarity, it would give guidance to local judges and the administration of criminal justice in Barbados.
Accordingly, special leave to appeal to the CCJ was granted.