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Robertson wins appeal for retrial

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Attorney Samantha Robertson, on Wednesday, June 8, successfully appealed against conviction in a burglary matter.{{more}} The judges of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal have ordered a re-trial for Godwin Sam.

Judges of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal: Ola Mae Edwards, Davidson Baptiste and Ian Mitchell allowed the appeal.

Sam was convicted of burglary on June 19, 2007, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Robertson appealed on the grounds that the learned trial judge erred when he denied the appellant the right to legal counsel as provided for in Section 8 of the constitution, chapter 2 of the Revised Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines 1990.

Roberston also appealed that the judge failed in his duty to give the appellant adequate directions on how to conduct his trial, particularly since he was unrepresented. The final ground stated the conviction is unsafe and unsatisfactory, having regard to the evidence adduced at the trial.

Robertson argued that the matter should have been adjourned to allow Sam to obtain counsel. She noted that no consideration was given to the fact that Sam was without counsel and the trial went ahead that same day.

Robertson further contended that when the issue of cross-examination arose in the case, the prosecutor was allowed to ask many leading questions to the unrepresented Sam.

“The appellant was denied a fair trial, and based on that, the conviction should be quashed,” Robertson added.

Representing the crown, Sejilla McDowall conceded on the first two grounds of appeal submitted by learned counsel, Robertson.

She, however, noted that there was enough evidence against the appellant, but conceeded that the irregularities were “glaring”.

McDowall asked the court to consider at best a re-trial in the matter.

Expressing her dissatisfaction, Justice Edwards said she was disturbed that the case was heard on the same day, knowing the fact Sam did not have legal representation.

“Prosecuting counsel have a duty as ministers of justice. Every accused person should be allowed a fair trial,” Edwards said.

Edwards added that the manner in which trials are being conducted is of great concern for the court. She said she hopes to see fewer cases coming before the appeal court, which are based on certain grounds of complaints.

Edwards ordered the conviction and sentence against Sam be set aside and for the case to be remitted to the High Court for trial before a different judge.

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