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DPP not ready: 2 freed on sex charges

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DPP not ready: 2 freed on sex charges

SEVEN sexual offences against a fire officer and his former girlfriend in relation to an athlete were discharged after the Office of the Director of Prosecutions (DPP) failed to be ready in the matter.

Machael James and Murisha Mur­ray were before the Scarborough Magistrates’ Court on charges of acts of grievous sexual assault upon a schoolgirl between August 31 and October 1, 2014, at Mason Hall, Tobago.

They were however freed after Senior Magistrate Rajendra Ramba­chan yesterday upheld the legal submissions made by their attorney, Martin George. In his submissions, he outlined the numerous hearings before the court and the many occasions that the State attorneys were not ready to proceed.

He submitted that the defen­dants’ lives were held in abeyance, at the whims and fancies of the tardy prosecution of the matter.

In the beginning, a State attorney was not yet appointed. This was done in July 2017.

George submitted the occasions the attorney from the DPP’s Office did not attend. The matter was set for trial in July 2019 but did not proceed, and eventually did on December 3, 2019.

On that day, George said the matter was set for trial but had to be adjourned because the DPP’s attorney only disclosed seven statements, and did so just before the hearing. This meant the defence attorneys did not have an opportunity to review them.

At that hearing, the State attorney also indicated the alleged victim was moving to the US and could not attend the hearing.

On July 29, 2020, the prosecu­tion made the first mention of ma­king an application pursuant to Section 15C of the Evidence Act as a result of the athlete being out of the country.

At the hearing in March 2021, the police prosecutor indicated there was no word from the State attorney who did not appear and gave no reason for the absence. A week later, an attorney for the State indicated that after a perusal of the file, he was of the opinion that a further statement was needed from the athlete, and also said the DPP’s Office was still awaiting feedback regarding the Section 15C application.

‘Unjust to continue prosecution’

In July 2021, the DPP’s Office was once again not ready, the athlete was absent and the Section 15C appli­cation had still not yet been filed.

George petitioned the court to dismiss the case, but it was adjourned to ascertain whether the athlete wished to proceed.

Adjournments continued and a new State attorney was appointed and requested time to become familiar with the file.

The defendants always had to be present, otherwise, warrants could have been issued for their arrests. George submitted that for the most part, he would have always been rea­dy, willing and able to proceed with the matter, yet adjournment continued.

He filed an application before the court, claiming it was unfair and unjust to continue the prosecution of the matter in the circumstances, which were oppressive to his clients.

George applied to the court for a discharge of the seven sexual offences against the defendants.

Rambachan, who also looked at the records of the case not being able to proceed, discharged James and Murray of the seven charges.

By: Nikita Braxton-Benjamin

Express Newspaper
Trinidad and Tobago

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