By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROSECUTORS will be allowed to challenge a magistrate's acquittal of a police sergeant who was cleared of having sexual intercourse with two underage girls who were wards of the state.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal set a date for the hearing after it ruled that it had the jurisdiction to hear the appeal challenging the order to acquit 43-year-old Juan Pratt of the charges.
Defending attorney Murrio Ducille spent an hour arguing against the 1996 amended Court of Appeal act which allows magisterial orders and sentences to be challenged.
He said that the provision did not include acquittals.
He also said that prosecutors Vernal Collie and Aaron Johnson's contention of it, including acquittals, could not stand as there was no specific wording of it mentioning acquittals.
Justices Anita Allen and Stanley John did not agree with Mr Ducille and took a 15 minute recess before returning to dismiss his objection to the appeal.
They ruled that the court had the jurisdiction to hear the appeal and would reveal, at a later date, a detailed explanation to why the appeal will be allowed to be heard.
This means that Mr Pratt, of Duke Drive, South Bahamia, and son of the country's first female Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia "Mother" Pratt, will return to the Court of Appeal on September 12.
Crown attorneys intend to argue that Freeport Deputy Chief Magistrate Helen Jones' decision to acquit Mr Pratt of the two charges was 'unreasonable.'
Prior to his acquittal in February 2010, it was alleged that sometime between May 5 and May 6, 2007, Mr Pratt had sex with two girls, aged 14 and 15, at his home.
The girls, who are wards of the state, were put in the care of Mr Pratt and his wife, who was off the island at the time of the alleged incident.
Mr Pratt was interdicted from the police force pending the outcome of his trial.
The prosecution produced no DNA evidence in the matter and closed its case in June 2009.
In August of that year, Mr Ducille made a "no case submission" on behalf of his client, arguing that the prosecution had failed to produce a prima facie case against his client.
Magistrate Jones, however, ruled that the no-case submission had failed and that a prima facie case had been established.
Mr Pratt denied the allegations when he gave an unsworn statement in court. He said he took the girls to the bowling alley and gave them $20. He went home and fell asleep.
He said the girls came into his room and into the bed. He testified that at no point did he have sex with them or touch them in any way.
In February 2010, Magistrate Jones acquitted Mr Pratt of the charges.