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Can Vynnette Frederick’s case be tried in an OECS state outside SVG?

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Tue Aug 6, 2013

EDITOR: I was asked by a staunch supporter of the NDP if it is possible for Vynnette Frederick to be tried in an OECS state outside St Vincent and the Grenadines, since the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) encompasses nine islands in the OECS and St Vincent is only a circuit.{{more}}

The contention is that since Miss Frederick is an Opposition politician, she might not have a fair trial if Government supporters make up the jury. But I recall that accused persons have the right to challenge three jurors without showing cause and thereafter they can ask other jurors to stand down if they could show cause.

Despite that, I feel that if a request is made for a change of venue to another jurisdiction, say Grenada or St Lucia, I do not think that the application would be entertained because there would be legal and constitutional difficulties. The ECSC is a unique court; maybe it is the only court in the Commonwealth or maybe the planet which dispenses justice in nine jurisdictions, including six independent states. However, in the real sense it is a regional treaty court. But each national constitution claims the high court as a organic part of that country’s polity. So there is a High Court of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a High Court of Grenada et al. The fusion is more at the level of the court of appeal and at the level of judicial administration which is vested in the Chief Justice and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC).

Moreover, it would be costly and burdensome for witnesses and attorneys to travel to another jurisdiction for a trial which might last several days. I am not sure if all the charges against Miss Frederick are indictable, but if there is any summary charge, that has to be dealt with in SVG unequivocally.

I prosecuted a case against Bomber Charles in February 1988 who was indicted with shooting a German in Union Island. It was the first criminal case I presented in SVG and I was told then that a few Union Island rebel leaders who were charged had made an application in 1979 through their lawyer, Mr. Bayliss Frederick, father of Vynnette, for a change of venue from Kingstown to Union Island, but that request was turned down. Please note that the request was to switch from one part of the state to another and it was flatly denied.

I recall in Guyana the venue was changed from Georgetown, the capital city to New Amsterdam, Berbice, 70 miles away in a trial in which eight senior police officers were indicted of torturing a staunch supporter of the then governing People’s National Congress Party (PNC). I covered that trial as a reporter for the local and regional media.

Oscar Ramjeet

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