By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE ATTORNEY General’s office, in its second attempt, was able to have gun and ammunition charges against a couple discontinued after it brought a revised written directive to the Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
With the first nolle prosequi being rejected by Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell on December 21 because of irregularities with the document, public prosecutions deputy director Garvin Gaskin yesterday afternoon brought a revised version signed by Acting Attorney General Jerome Fitzgerald.
The document, bearing Mr Fitzgerald’s signature because Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson was out of the country at the time, was dated November 28, exactly a month before yesterday’s proceedings.
As a result of the revised document – an example of the Attorney General’s office’s legal power authorized in Bahamian law – Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell told George and Janice Hayes that the charges against them were being discontinued. However, she said, the matter could be brought back at anytime the Attorney General wished as they were not acquitted, only discharged.
The couple each faced a charge of possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition.
It is claimed that on February 3, 2010 the two were found in possession of a .380 pistol and 19 live rounds of ammunition for the weapon.
The accused, represented by Mrs Allyson Maynard-Gibson before her appointment as Attorney General, pleaded not guilty to the charges at their arraignment days after their arrest in 2010.
To this day, both deny the allegations against them.
On December 21, their attorney Tonique Lewis was expected to make a closing address to the court concerning the evidence brought against her clients.
However, prosecutor ASP Ercel Dorsett addressed the deputy chief magistrate and said that the Attorney General’s office wished to take a certain course of action. The prosecutor then pulled out a document from a folder and said that it was correspondence from the Attorney General’s office giving a certain directive to discontinue these proceedings.
The nolle prosequi was rejected by the deputy chief magistrate because the document was not dated and it was not clear who had signed it. She asked the prosecutor to send the document back and adjourned the matter to December 28.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Mr Gaskin appeared before the court and said that the issues that had arisen concerning the document had been rectified.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell inspected the document and asked Mr Gaskin who the acting Attorney General was who had signed the directive.
“The acting Attorney General at the time was Jerome Fitzgerald,” Mr Gaskin replied.
The magistrate then addressed the couple and informed them of the contents of the document.
“So, therefore, in relation to these two counts, and at the stage of trial when counsel were to make closing addresses, the Attorney General has discontinued the action against you,” the Court 8 magistrate said.
“I want to warn you that the discharge against you is not an acquittal,” she added.
The magistrate, as a consequence of the nolle prosequi, did not order the gun or ammunition to be confiscated.
The move by the Attorney General’s office did not sit well with justice of the peace Rodney Moncur who said afterwards that he had sent a letter of protest against the order to the Prime Minister, but had not had a reply.