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Judge rules against DPP Gaspard in judicial review case

Judge rules against DPP Gaspard in judicial review case
ROGER GASPARD, Director of Public Prosecutions and Tobago (DPP) of Trinidad

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A HIGH COURT judge has held there has been unreasonable delay by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to file the indictment of a man who wanted to plead guilty to rape and robbery charges since 2017.

In his ruling, Justice Kevin Ramcharan said he was of the view that, at the very latest, the indictment against Ako Patrick should have been filed within six months of the DPP receiving the relevant file from the magistrates’ court, after committal proceedings came to an end.

He declared that the failure by the DPP to file an indictment against Patrick was unreasonable, improper, unlawful and unfair.

In 2003 and 2005, Patrick was charged with rape and robbery with violence.

For the 2003 charges, he was committed to stand trial in 2007 and the indictment for those charges were filed in 2015. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced for those matters in 2017, by Justice Maria Wilson.

Earlier that year, Patrick said he wanted to also plead guilty to the 2005 charges, and his attorney wrote to the DPP asking for copies of depositions from the committal proceedings.

Patrick’s attorneys were told the DPP was not in possession of the depositions of the 2005 matter. Patrick also signed up for the pilot scheme of the Judiciary where people who wanted to plead guilty but were waiting on their indictments, could have their cases expedited.

By July 2019, no indictment in Patrick’s case was filed and he filed for judicial review.

Ramcharan said he could not agree with the DPP’s submission that in no circumstance, could a representation by a prosecutor, give rise to a legitimate expectation.

On the issue of unreasonable delay, the judge pointed to the important dates in Patrick’s case, including when he wanted to plead guilty to the 2005 charges; that he pleaded guilty to the 2003 charges and had asked the court to take into account the 2005 charges when sentencing.

Also, during the sentencing process, that the prosecutor said she would do her best to ensure the 2005 matter was filed within a month; that the DPP only received the committal proceedings for the 2005

matter in July 2018; the pre-action protocol letter sent to the DPP and the filing of the lawsuit in 2019 and the eventual filing of the indictment by the DPP on March 4, 2020.

“In circumstances where there is no statutory prescription as to the time frame within which an act ought to be done by a public authority, the question of whether there has been unreasonable delay is in fact specific,” Ramcharan said.

Ramcharan also pointed to the submission that there was currently an endemic shortage of prosecutors at the Office of the DPP which hampers the efficiency with which the process can take place.

It was also noted that indictments are generally prepared in the order in which they are received and at the time Patrick had filed his claim, there were 500 other indictments awaiting processing.

It was argued by the DPP that given the circumstances, the time taken to file the indictment could not be said to be unreasonable.

However, Ramcharan said this case had certain factors which distinguished it from normal circumstances including that the DPP knew Patrick wanted to plead guilty to the 2005 matters.

“In circumstances where eight years have passed since committal and an accused was virtually begging to plead guilty, surely it was reasonable and expected that the defendant would have tried to prompt the Magistrate’s Court to send the committal proceedings across with some dispatch,” Justice Ramcharan said.

Patrick was represented by attorney Peter Carter. The DPP was ordered to pay Patrick’s costs for bringing the claim which will be assessed by the registrar of the court.

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