CCJ rules against admitting statements into evidence

Pat Cheltenham (left).
Pat Cheltenham (left).

The Caribbean Court of Justice today declined an application from the legal team for Jamaican Shanique Myrie to admit two statements into evidence, which were taken from a Daniel Forde and Shakira Rowe, by police sergeant Vernon Farrell.

In the landmark ruling, the CCJ allowed the statements to be admitted for identification purposes and cross examination only.

“During the testimony of Sergeant Farrell, he testified that during the course of conducting investigations on behalf of the defendant, he had taken statements from persons including Daniel Forde and Shakira Rowe,” court President Denis Byron noted in his ruling.

“Neither Daniel Forde nor Shakira Rowe are on the list of witnesses provided by the defendant.”

However, he said, both of them had been mentioned with some significance in the testimony of the claimant and in the proposed testimony of at least one witness on the defence’s list, they seemed to have played an important role in the development of the factual issues surrounding this matter.

“It would be fair to indicate that the court does have some concern that they were not called to testify, as their testimony could assist in the determination of the facts of the case,” the court head observed.

He pointed out that the claimant orally applied for the statements to be admitted into evidence.

Justice Byron said it seemed from the submissions, that the claimant’s intention was for the statements to be treated as evidence of the truth of their contents, “but we are unsure as to the exact terms of the application”.

The judge noted that the state attorney had expressed “strenuous objections”.

“We do not consider this application to be controversial. It is consistent with standard practice as the court would routinely allow the use of any statement that has been disclosed by a party to be used in the cross examination of any of the witnesses,” declared the justice.

“In these circumstances, the court would admit the statements referred by the claimant for identification at this stage, and allow all statements in them to be used in the cross examination of witnesses,” he ruled.

For clarity, he added that the CCJ would also allow any of the statements disclosed by the defendant to be used for this purpose as well.

“However, in addition, the submissions of the claimant and the intervenor cited legal authority which raised a broader application of the principle of the admissibility of evidence in the trial,” pointed out the top court official.

“Since ruling of this principle is not necessary for resolving the application currently before us, we have decided not to engage in the discussion of those principles at this time.”

Justice Byron said the panel recognised and noted that there would be further opportunity to address matters relating to evidential status and weight of the material before the court. (EJ)††

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