By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SUPREME Court trial date has been set for a woman accused of defrauding a community development initiative of more than $40,000.
Valderine Watkins, who once worked as a secretary in the Ministry of Housing under former Minster Shane Gibson, could stand trial before March 18, 2013, if space within the legal calendar becomes available to hear the matter.
Watkins along with co-defendant Stanley Nixon, are being tried before Justice Roy Jones on multiple charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud by false pretenses, forgery and uttering forge documents and other charges.
The prosecution claims the pair, between 2006 and 2007, conspired to and committed fraud by forging contracts which were used to obtain funds that were expected to be used to the benefit the Urban Renewal Programme.
It is claimed Watkins forged contracts to Nixon who received funds in excess of $40,000 to start works for the Urban Renewal Programme that reportedly never commenced.
There are 30 witnesses expected to give evidence.
During yesterday's fixture hearing, prosecutor Darell Taylor asked Justice Jones for an early trial date, hoping February 24 was a convenient date for counsel and the judge to hear the three-week trial.
Ramona Farquharson-Seymour, defending, said she was ready to proceed with the case. When Justice Jones noted that the trial would commence next year, both sides did not agree with the date.
Ms Taylor asked if the case could be accommodated for an earlier date. However, the judge explained it could only happen unless the prosecution had a case that was "unlikely to proceed for whatever reason".
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour's submission was the matter had been before the courts for more than four years.
She said: "It was at the Magistrate's level. Then got a VBI and now it's before this court."
"Ms Walkine" she added, "has been out of work since that period. She cannot travel as her passport has been seized and she has no salary coming in whatsoever."
The defence lawyer requested that her passport be released to her.
Justice Jones granted the request and made the order for it to be released. However he informed them that their bail conditions remained as is.
Regarding the trial date, he affirmed it would proceed between March 18 and April 5, 2013. "But we may be able to find an earlier date upon your agreement with if the crown finds a case they will not be able to proceed with for what ever reason."
Uel Johnson is assisting prosecutor Ms Taylor. Dorcee McPhee represents co-defendant Nixon.