Three trials set, none proceed

In one Grand Court matter, investigating officer said she had a personal difficulty

Three criminal trials were originally scheduled to start in Grand Court on Monday, 27 August, with one of them expected to be a back up in case another did not go ahead. 

As matters transpired, none of them went ahead. 

The trial of Robert Aaron Crawford, charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm, was adjourned until 1 October. Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson said she had her witnesses and was ready to start. However, late last week the investigating officer in the case had indicated she had a personal difficulty requiring her to travel overseas from 28 August, returning 5 September. 

Ms Hutchinson said she was prepared to go ahead with the trial and read the officer’s statement into evidence, since her role was largely administrative. However, defence attorney Nicholas Hoffman required the officer to give evidence in person so that he could cross-examine her. 

Since it was not desirable to do part of the trial now and part after the officer’s return, the attorneys agreed to the new date. 

Mr. Hoffman emphasised that he was not criticising Ms Hutchinson, who had told him about the difficulty as soon as she found out. However, he pointed out, the investigating officer had known about the listing for months but had let attorneys know about a pre-existing date only days before the trial. He said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service needed to take these kinds of things far more seriously. 

His client was placed between the devil and the deep blue sea, Mr. Hoffman said, having to choose between continuing in custody another five weeks or having his trial truncated. He had decided it was better for all of the evidence to be heard at the same time. 

Justice Charles Quin said the defence had his sympathy regarding the late adjournment of the matter. He noted that the charge arose from an incident on 18 November 2011 and this week’s trial date had been set on 22 June, “so the officer in the case has known for eight to 10 weeks.” He said it was unsatisfactory for the attorneys to be told at the eleventh hour that she would not be available. It caused inconvenience to other witnesses, to counsel and the court, he pointed out. 

Investigating officers should be present on day one of a trial and be available throughout the case, the judge said. He hoped he would not see any repetition of such conduct. The officer in this case was not named. 

In Court 5, where Justice Carol Beswick was scheduled to preside over a five-day firearm trial, the Crown offered no evidence. 

The third trial, which could have been the back-up, did not go ahead at the request of the defendant. On Friday, attorney John Furniss requested permission to come off record for the man, who had asked for another attorney, Clyde Allen. He told Justice Beswick that because Mr. Allen had been off Island until the previous day, there was no opportunity to come before the court to advise of the change. Mr. Allen confirmed his role, but said he still needed to receive some of the documents in the case, so it could not go ahead as scheduled. It was set for mention on 7 September. 

Also on Friday’s list, Marcus Steve Manderson pleaded not guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm – a modified flare gun – in February this year. He was given the trial date of 14 January, 2013. 

Manderson, who was in custody, asked to address the court. “I’d like an earlier trial date than that, please,” he said. 

Justice Beswick replied, “There is no more space for any more trials. The courts are full.” 

The judge, who is assisting from another jurisdiction, asked what the procedure is in the event of another scheduled trial not going ahead. Defence Attorney Lucy Organ said there was no set procedure, but she could ask the listing officer to let her know of any opening.  

In both matters set to start on Monday, the defendants chose had chosen trial by judge alone. Jurors initially told to return on 27 August were subsequently advised on the Jury Information Line and broadcast announcements to attend on Monday, 3 September, instead. 

CI Law Court

The Law Courts Building in downtown George Town. – Photo: File

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