Frank McField argued there was no case to answer
Former Cabinet Minister Frank McField has successfully defended himself in Summary Court against charges of resisting arrest and obstructing police.
Late Thursday afternoon, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn dismissed the charges, saying she upheld his submission that there was no case for him to answer.
The charges stemmed from an attempt by police officers to seize equipment being used to play music after midnight on Sunday, 20 May, 2012, at the El Caboose Restaurant, of which Mr. McField is the proprietor.
The restaurant, in McField Square in George Town, was managed at the time by Silvana Lewis, who was charged with the same offences, plus two others. For the same reasons as in Mr. McField’s case, the magistrate dismissed the charges of obstructing police and resisting arrest.
Two other charges remain – permitting use of a premises for the purpose of music and dancing after hours and assault causing bodily harm. The named complainant in the assault matter is a police officer who was allegedly bitten. These two charges are still before the court and will be mentioned again on 3 July.
The “no case to answer” submission was made by Mr. McField after the Crown closed its case.
The evidence was that police first arrived at the restaurant at 12.40am as a private party was in progress to celebrate Honduran Mother’s Day. Mr. McField was not present at the time; Ms Lewis’ position was that they had instructed that the music be turned off, but gave no legal reason for doing so.
Mr. McField was present when officers returned to the premises around 1.30am, entered the restaurant and attempted to seize the music equipment. When Ms Lewis tried to block them from doing so, there was a struggle and they arrested her. Mr. McField became involved and was arrested for obstructing police.
Mr. McField argued that there was nothing in law that allowed the police to enter the premises for the purpose of taking the equipment without a warrant or without having made an arrest first. The charges of obstruction and resisting arrest sprang from resistance to that initial, incorrect police action, he said.
One of the officers had told the court he did not need any authority to enter the premises because the law was being breached and he was making inquiries.
The Police Law states that a police officer may enter a premises for the purpose of executing a warrant, making an arrest, recapturing a person unlawfully at large, or for the purpose of saving a life or preventing serious damage to property.
The law further states that a police officer may seize anything on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence from being concealed, lost or destroyed.
From the testimony given during the prosecution’s case, it was not clear whether the lead officer in this matter had applied his mind to that section of the law, Senior Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban agreed.
She conceded that the evidence was not clear enough for the court to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the officers were acting in execution of their duty.
The magistrate pointed out that any reasonable doubt had to be resolved in the defendants’ favour. Then, given the doubt as to whether the officers were acting in the execution of their duty, it was unclear whether they were effecting a lawful arrest with regard to Ms Lewis.
Both defendants entered not guilty pleas in November and their joint trial began on 11 February. It went part-heard over several dates and on 1 May, Mr. McField asked for an adjournment so that he could concentrate on his election campaign in the district of George Town.
He indicated at the time that he had wanted to prove his innocence before the general election, but the trial had gone on longer than he ever imagined. The former legislator and government minister was not successful in his re-election bid.
The magistrate pointed out that any reasonable doubt had to be resolved in the defendants’ favour.