Syed gets lawyer, legal aid

Judge sets Jan. 30 for arraignment

Hassan Syed, former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, now has legal representation for his matters in Grand Court, Justice Charles Quin was told on Friday. 

Defense attorney James Stenning said his firm, Stenning and Associates, had received a legal aid certificate late the previous day, Jan. 22. 

“We have only been effectively instructed since night,” he pointed out. 

Mr. Stenning has appeared for Syed previously, but on a pro bono basis. 

He also advised that he may seek legal aid for a Queen’s Counsel. “We are privy to information that may or may not be accurate,” he said, submitting it was a complex matter with sensitive material that would need an experienced senior advocate to assess. 

Justice Quin said the timing gave Mr. Stenning a week to review the indictment with the defendant and he suggested arraignment on Friday, Jan. 30. 

Speaking directly to Syed, the judge explained that arraignment means, “Plead guilty or not guilty.” 

There are 15 counts on the indictment, including theft and obtaining by deception. The alleged offenses date from 2006-2008, when Syed was president of the college. 

The charges were brought in November 2013, when he was not in the jurisdiction. He returned in May 2014. His attorney at the time, James Austin-Smith, successfully argued for bail with strict conditions on the basis of Syed’s poor health. 

In June, a trial was set for March 2, 2015, with arraignment to take place in November. 

However, in October, Mr. Austin-Smith asked the court’s permission to cease representing Syed and the defendant appeared in court several times afterwards to report on his efforts to secure the services of another attorney. 

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