Drug case delayed because of lack of a stenographer


Tribune Staff Reporter


A MAN accused of drug possession was granted a stay in his case pending the outcome of his constitutional motion to be heard in the Supreme Court because a magistrate could not comply with his request to have a stenographer present for his trial.

Magistrate Andrew Forbes referred the matter to the Supreme Court for a ruling on Sean Lightbourne’s argument that having a stenographer present would comply with his right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 20(1) of the Bahamas’ constitution.

According to Article 20(1), “if any person is charged with a criminal offence, then unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.”

Article 28 notes that “if any person alleges that any of the provisions of Articles 16 to 27 (inclusive) of this Constitution has been, is being, or is likely to be contravened in relation to him then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, that person may apply to the Supreme Court for redress.”

Last Friday, the magistrate indicated to Lightbourne’s lawyer, Krysta Mason-Smith. that notwithstanding the request and the argument made, he had received instructions to take written notes of the proceedings.

It was then that the lawyer indicated her intention to file a constitutional motion in reference to those articles of the constitution.

The Drug Court magistrate told the 38-year-old Rugby Drive resident, who faces at least four years in prison if convicted of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply, that he would postpone the trial to May 5 when he will receive a report on the outcome of the motion.

The decision by the government to take stenographers from the Magistrate’s Court in favour of digital recording was met with heavy criticism from members of the Criminal Bar Committee.

Two weeks ago in a press conference held by the Bahamas Bar Association, President Elsworth Johnson said the body did not support the implementation of digital recording because of problems encountered in other jurisdictions.

Jairam Mangra, who was also at the press conference, said he was in a trial where a recorded interview turned into a silent movie because of a technical malfunction.

Mangra said there would have been no evidence presented in the trial if there had not been a written interview. He said that was a “real world example of the vagaries of technology and we live in the real world”.

According to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, magistrates will not have to take longhand notes for long and that the government would learn from the problems encountered by other countries.

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