DPP takes umbrage to being summoned by Justice Beckles
In an unprecedented move, the Director of Public Prosecutions Charles Leacock, QC, was summoned to appear in court today as a witness in a joint court action brought against the Attorney General and the DPP.
The claimant, Frank Errol Gibson, is claiming damages in excess of $2 million in the lawsuit filed against the State.
And while the DPP came, there was no hiding his displeasure at being called as a witness in the matter being heard before Madam Justice Pamela Beckles in the No. 8 Supreme Court.
“I take serious exception to being issued as a witness,” said a visibly upset Leacock, after he was ordered to appear in connection with the legal suit brought by Frank Gibson against the State for breach of his constitutional rights.
It was back on November 8, 2012 when the DPP discontinued the case against Gibson, who was accused of murdering Francine Bolden, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to make out a case beyond reasonable doubt.
Gibson was freed after spending a decade on remand for the death of Bolden of Pot House, St John, who was killed sometime between January 15 and 16, 2002.
He has since sued the State and the DPP, claiming that he was wrongfully charged, imprisoned and prosecuted for Bolden’s murder.
Today, when his legal challenge came up for hearing, Gibson’s attorney Larry Smith refused to give any quarter to the DPP, as he attempted to address the bench.
“The learned Director [of Public Prosecutions] has been summoned here . . . as a witness. Therefore, given the peculiar circumstances . . . [the DPP does not have] any right to address you in relation to the matter,” said Smith.
“If it is the learned Director’s position that he has fired the Solicitor General [as his legal representative] and he is now representing himself in the matter, then, in those circumstances, [let] the record reflect that,” Smith continued, arguing strongly that the DPP had no “locus standi” in the case, except to address the judge from the witness box.
However, Smith’s position did not sit well with the DPP, who countered him saying: “Every defendant has a constitutional right before this court to appear in person and make submissions with or without counsel or co-counsel”.
He also described Smith’s argument as “the most obtuse” submission ever made to the court, while arguing that “no one can stop the right of a person to address this court, especially when he is a . . . defendant in a criminal or civil matter”.
After a lengthy back and forth in the courtroom, in the full view of the young attorneys present, Justice Beckles would intervene to issue this warning:
“Listen to me, both of you are going to behave yourselves, or I am going to step off this bench . . . do you understand me? I am not tolerating this nonsense,” she said, even as she suggested how the matter could be approached in order to reach an amicable solution.
It would be sometime later before the DPP would again take to his feet, arguing that the court had been “misled” in terms of the witness summons, which he claimed was obtained through “deceit”.
“My Lady I find it very unfortunate your recent pronouncements. In light of the exchange you have had . . . I believe the only application I can make . . . is that you recuse yourself for these proceedings,” Leacock said as he accused the court of impropriety in its issuance of the witness summons.
The DPP made it clear that he had “no confidence” in Justice Beckles to continue with the trial even though she said she had acted based on the information presented to her last week.
“I am not confident that the defendant and the attorney general can get a fair trial in light of the exchange,” the DPP added.
Earlier, the Deputy Solicitor General, Donna Brathwaite, QC, had said that she had objected to the summons since it was issued to a “post” and not a “person”.
She further indicated to the court that she saw no need for Justice Beckles to recuse herself.
The matter was adjourned until tomorrow.