A video purporting to show a man’s alleged indecent conduct with a child has not yet been received by the defendant’s attorney, Magistrate Philippa McFarlane was advised on Wednesday.
Defense attorney Steve McField, who represents Errington Albert Webster, asked the court to impose sanctions against the Crown if a copy of the video is not served within seven days.
Webster, 54, first appeared in Summary Court on July 20. He faces four charges of gross indecency with a child, said to have occurred between April and June this year. The video allegedly refers to one of the charges.
“Disclosure [of evidence] is one of the fundamental principles of criminal law,” Mr. McField pointed out. He noted that Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez had made an order for disclosure of the video by Aug. 5.
Instead, Mr. McField said he had received an invitation to attend the prosecutor’s office to see the video on the prosecution’s equipment.
“That is not disclosure,” he asserted. “For obvious reasons, I need my own copy.”
Mr. McField said he would have to view the video with his client, take instructions and perhaps have his own forensic examination performed on the video.
The magistrate declined to order any sanctions at this stage. She said she did not think the defendant was disadvantaged by Mr. McField going to the Department of Public Prosecutions to view the footage.
She said she wanted to make it clear that the defense could not delay entering pleas on the basis that Mr. McField did not like being asked to go and view the video.
Magistrate Hernandez had set Aug. 17 as the date for Webster to either enter his pleas or elect whether he wanted the matter dealt with in Grand Court or Summary Court.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin referred the magistrate to a letter to the court, which indicated that the video was not yet capable of being served. Asked how long it would take, Ms. Fargin agreed to “seven firm days.”
The magistrate directed that the video be served on Mr. McField within seven days. She set the next mention for Tuesday, Aug. 30, and said she would ask that the matter come back to her court.
Mr. McField observed that “every Tom, Dick, Harry and Mary Jane” had a copy of the video. The magistrate said the reason so many people had a copy was that it had been sent illegally.
On a related matter, Mr. McField advised the court that police who went to his client’s house had removed items that belonged to his wife and were not his. Items included her personal computer, an iPad and a Blackberry. She needed some of these things for work, the attorney said.
The magistrate said she would not make an order for the return of the items at this time because officers could hold them until investigations were complete. She suggested that Mr. McField write to the investigating officer to request that items be returned or confirmation that they have been reviewed.
Webster, a retired fire officer, was a candidate for Bodden Town in the 2013 general elections. He placed 10th in a field of 13.