Stenographer Ruling Delayed


Tribune Staff Reporter


SENIOR Justice Jon Isaacs deferred his ruling on whether two men’s right to a fair trial would be in jeopardy without the presence of a stenographer.

The judge said he would indicate to all parties when he was ready with his decision and would stay the trials of Stephen Gibson Jr and Sean Lightbourne in Magistrates Court until such time.

Senior Justices Isaacs heard submissions from lawyer Murrio Ducille who represents the two men in their respective Magistrates Court cases.

Mr Ducille noted that his clients were seeking a declaration from the court that their constitutional rights to a fair trial had been infringed upon and the actions of the Crown to remove stenographers from the lower court has the effect of causing prejudice in their case.

He noted that the issue over the stenographers began when Jennifer Leach, a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, became the interim manager of the court-reporting unit and made the recommendation that the stenographers be removed from the lower court in favour of digital recording.

He said until digital recording came on stream at the end of the year, magistrates would have to take handwritten notes instead of an independent body recording the proceedings.

Mr Ducille argued that in other jurisdictions, stenographers were being returned to the courts because digital recording did not prove favourable.

In response, Crown counsel David Higgins called Mr Ducille’s application premature based on the fact that there was no evidence of bias or prejudice being done to the accused men.

He further argued that the Magistrates Act allows for the magistrate to have the discretion to continue a matter and taking handwritten notes. The lawyer further referred to authority cases of instances that a magistrates handwritten notes were accepted by the Court of Appeal.

Both Lightbourne and Gibson had filed motions to the Supreme Court when their request to have a stenographer present was denied.

Lightbourne faces charges of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply and possession of a prohibited weapon.

Gibson Jr faces possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of ammunition.

While Lightbourne’s request had been deferred to the Supreme Court for a decision, Gibson’s case continued on despite his request to have a stenographer present.

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.”

Their matter was joined together by Senior Justice Isaacs last week since both motions were similar in nature and being argued by the same lawyer, Mr Ducille.

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