Attorney requests disclosure of ballot boxes
Disclosure of the ballot boxes used in the December 2015 general elections has been requested by the lawyer defending the owner of Nice Radio against charges posed to him.
The charges against avid New Democratic Party(NDP) supporter and proprietor of Nice radio, Douglas ‘Dougie’ DeFreitas read that he published false statements likely to cause alarm, following the 2015 general elections.
One of these statements reads, “I have just had confirmation that six of the ballots were unsealed and one missing. Six of the ballots were unsealed and one missing. It means that something went on down there in the polling station and we are calling for by-elections by Monday. We want by-elections, we don’t want…And I want the leadership to the NDP to find some transportation, get supporters to go down there and to get into place, please and persons who can go on their own, go down there and support Exeter on this matter.”
Kay Bacchus-Baptiste is the defence attorney for DeFreitas, and when she is not a defence attorney, she is a senator for the NDP.
It is not the first time that such a request has been made by the attorney, but two previous magistrates who were to hear the case before, recused themselves.
Last week, Bacchus-Baptiste made the application before senior magistrate Rickie Burnett at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.
Responding to the application, Nelson submitted that the ballot boxes were not disclosable.
“Our case is that the defendant made certain statements, and those statements related to the condition of ballot boxes at a particular place, and at a particular time. Now your honour, if it was possible for us to go back to that place and to that time then I would agree with my friend,” he stated.
Continuing, he submitted, “Our case does not hinge at all on the condition of the ballot boxes as they are now. Our case is about their condition between the ninth and the tenth of December 2015, almost three years ago, so that it would not assist the court and it cannot assist the defence to have ballot boxes disclosed to them.”
He added, as a ‘by the way’ point, that the proceedings should not be used to get around an order made by the High Court previously.
In making this point, counsel was referring to a decision made by Justice Esco Henry in February this year, wherein a motion to inspect the ballot boxes in the 2015 general elections, was rejected. The reason for doing so, as given in the judgment, was that to allow the motion would be an abuse of the process of the court.
The motion was supplementary to the election petition case, filed by Benjamin Exeter, NDP candidate for Central Leeward against respondent, successful Unity Labour Party(ULP) candidate, Louis Straker.
The defence attorney responded that Nelson ‘probably misunderstood’ the order made in the High Court. “The order was made based on the fact that the court held that before the petitions were brought to the court an order was made for disclosure which was not granted, and which was not appealed. That was the reason why it was refused, that it should have been appealed at the point rather than wait to come a second time. That was the reason why it was refused. It was a legal reason in a civil matter,” she stressed.
Responding to counsel’s point that the case rests on the condition of the ballot boxes as they then were, Bacchus-Baptiste stated that the boxes were ‘still there,’ and they had not been tampered with since then. “Unless he’s saying that they’ve been tampered with from the night of December. It’s the same ballot boxes, the exact same ballot boxes. So how could my learned friend come and say the conditions are different. Does he know something that we don’t know?” she stated.
Nelson rose indignantly once more, by leave of the magistrate, to reiterate and elaborate. “The substance of what was alleged basically is that when the boxes went into the custody of the police, on the night of the ninth, that there was some sort of tampering. That was the substance of the comments. So, that our case is between that narrow window, of when the boxes came to be in the custody of the police, and when they were released for the recount,” he stated.
“We have to naturally appreciate that during the course of an election there would be points where ballot boxes would have to be unsealed, because they must be open to be counted… So, that is really the substance of our case your honour,” he ended.
Burnett indicated that he would give a decision on another date, to be decided, and that he would inform the parties of such.