‘Retrial would clear my name’ – Lewis
Suspended policeman Elron Lewis has already served the entire six-month prison sentence he received after being convicted of deception in 2016, but following a successful appeal, his matter will be retried.
Last Tuesday, Lewis told justices of the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) — Mario Michel, Gertel Thom and the Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira — that he still has a lot to gain from a retrial.
While he was in the midst of arguing his appeal, Lewis said he still hasn’t been dismissed as a police officer, and that he was only suspended, pending the outcome of his appeal. Lewis believed a retrial would “clear my name.”
“I’m being seen as a dishonest person, basically,” he commented.
Lewis was convicted on three deception charges in 2016, and at the time of his trial, held at the Serious Offences Court, he was facing numerous other deception charges, many of which were later withdrawn. The policeman had been found guilty of, on dates in September and November, 2015, dishonestly obtaining the sums $500, $500 and $130 from one Kenneth Peters of Lowmans Leeward with the intention of permanently depriving him of it.
Peters had told the court that he gave the officer this money to obtain drivers licenses for him and his father. Lewis had been ordered to pay compensation, in addition to being incarcerated.
Last week, the Chief Justice indicated that the three judges had been left with a “lurking doubt” as to the fairness of the trial.
This doubt was bred out of an “unhelpful” record of court proceedings, which did not serve to deny the version of proceedings that Lewis was maintaining had occurred.
“That is the difficulty that the court finds itself in, in so far as the record doesn’t assist. He says one thing, the clerk says a different thing, but then the clerk goes on to say, well I can’t say for sure…so it puts us in a position where what he has presented is not completely controverted by anything, whether the record or by the affidavit, or by the clerk,” Justice Michel told the Director of Public Prosecutions (Acting) Sejilla McDowall, acting for the crown as the respondent in the appeal.
Lewis had said that in 2016, the lawyer that he had secured to represent him, Olin Dennie, had died, and another lawyer in the same chambers, Andreas Coombs, was willing to represent him.
Coombs turned up to court on the day that the trial was set to continue, and asked, according to him, for an adjournment to familiarize himself with the case. Lewis said this was not granted, and he had to conduct the trial by himself, because Coombs withdrew from representing him.
Lewis submitted a document purporting to be from Coombs, outlining these events, but the document had never been sworn to.
However, in the event of a retrial, the policeman indicated that he was “confident” enough to represent himself, but all he needed was the disclosure that had been given to his now deceased lawyer. This disclosure had not been transferred to him before the trial in 2016, he indicated.
In the end, it came down to whether the court could disbelieve anything Lewis was saying in the face of the absence of a proper record.
The DPP was asked that, if what the appellant was saying was correct, whether those would be appropriate circumstances under which to order a retrial.
“If it were that he was denied the opportunity to sufficiently brief his counsel, certainly,” the DPP answered slowly.
The Justices chose to quash the conviction in the circumstances, and remit the matter for a retrial under a different magistrate. Disclosure was ordered, to be served by June 15.