Case against Barbadian fishermen to be reviewed
The Court of Appeal has sent to a High Court judge for review, a case in which a decision had been taken to discontinue criminal proceedings against two Barbadian fishermen, allegedly caught fishing illegally in Trinidad and Tobago waters more than six years ago.
The Court of Appeal in a written judgement on Friday said it was also concerned that the case could have serious implications for the democracy of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2004, the charges against the two fishermen were dropped and the accused were released, in a move that led to accusation of political interference in the judiciary.
“In this case there is also an underlying allegation of political interference in the prosecution of criminal proceedings. This allegation, if established, raises many issues that are also of great public and constitutional importance in a developing democracy such as Trinidad and Tobago,” the three-member Court of Appeal judge said.
The Court of Appeal panel, comprising Peter Jamadar, Humphrey Stollmeyer and Gregory Smith, ordered the appeal filed by Susan Charleau be allowed and the matter be judicially reviewed by a new judge.
Charleau had appealed the ruling by Justice Charmaine Pemberton on June 14, 2007 in which she dismissed the application for judicial review.
The court action was filed after criminal proceedings against Barbados fishermen Joseph Mason and Samuel Firebrace were abruptly discontinued on February 9, 2004.
The fishermen had been arrested by the Coast Guard on February 6, 2004 for allegedly fishing in Trinidad and Tobago waters. Mason was held aboard the vessel El Retes, which he captained, while Firebrace was held on the vessel De Boys.
The Commissioner of Police, police prosecutor Corporal John Morrison and Sergeant Fitzroy Gray were named as defendants to the court action.
Morrison, after receiving instructions that day, sought leave from Magistrate Joan Eversley-Gill to offer no evidence and discontinued the proceedings against the men.
But the Court of Appeal in its ruling read out by Justice Jamadar said the High Court judge erred in the approach she took, failing to engage in a “full and fair exploration of the underpinning facts” raised by the appellant.
“In my opinion, the trial judge deprived herself of the opportunity to find the true underlying facts in this case when she proceeded to hear and determine this matter without the benefit of the orders and approach indicated by Justice Aboud. In doing so the judge fell into error,” Jamadhar said.
Among the grounds of appeal, Charleau had stated “the learned judge erred in holding that there was no need to trouble the Director of Public Prosecutions’ constitutional power to discontinue proceedings in circumstances where the evidence disclosed possible collusion with the executive to terminate this prosecution and/or influence and/or interfere with the administration of the criminal justice system.”
Jamadhar was critical of Justice Pemberton’s failure to take into consideration Justice Aboud’s cross-examination of the officers regarding a phone conversation purported to have originated from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The caller identified himself as a senior official at the Ministry and told ASP Dillon he was “concerned” about the matter involving the two Barbadians. (CMC)