By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JUDGE ruled yesterday that a man accused of sexually assaulting a teenager seven years ago will finally stand trial despite a delay in the case, which breached his constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time.
In January, Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs heard a constitutional motion brought by 26-year-old Eric Dean who is of the view that he should not have to stand trial concerning the December 16, 2009, assault of the 15-year-old girl.
Dean sought a formal declaration from the court that Article 20 (1) of the Constitution had been infringed and asked that the proceedings be stayed permanently.
The grounds for the application were that the present case is an abuse of the process of the court; that the delay was presumptively prejudicial; that no reasonable explanation was given for the delay and that the applicant had been severely prejudiced in his defence because of the delay.
However, in referencing case authorities Culpepper v The State (Trinidad & Tobago) 2006 UK PC and Stubbs v the Attorney General 2013, Senior Justice Isaacs yesterday determined: “There is no circumstance in the present case that has been identified as being exception (and) the passage of time by itself does not qualify as an exception circumstance.
“There has been no reason offered by the respondent for the delay. Of course, as underlined by the applicant, the delay cannot be laid at his feet as it is the Attorney General who is charged with the prosecution of persons charged with a crime as enshrined in Article 28 of the Constitution.”
“However, the original trial date of June 13, 2016 was adjourned at counsel for the applicant’s request. The second trial date of December 12, 2016, was aborted due to an administrative miscommunication. The second trial date would have been vacated in any event because of the filing of the Constitutional motion by the applicant on that date.
“As to efforts made by the applicant to assert his rights, the applicant swore at paragraph nine of his supporting affidavit that he ‘made numerous inquiries over time with his previous counsel and to date nothing has happened’. The applicant was not cross-examined on this point. The respondent, as stated above in paragraph four, has not filed an affidavit opposing the application and therefore has not afforded the court any assistance on this point.”
“Apart from the chronology of the criminal prosecution which records a four-year delay between the arrest of the applicant in December, 2009, and his being committed to the Supreme Court in December, 2013, and the subsequent process, there is no record of the applicant asserting his rights through his previous counsel or on his own behalf.”
The judge acknowledged that the concept of a fair trial “includes an absence of prejudice to the applicant, in this case the passage of time has been dubbed as prejudicial”.
The judge, however, said there must be more than that and referenced Barker v Wingo case authority which highlights how a speedy trial could prevent oppressive pre-trial incarceration, minimise anxiety and concern of the accused and limit the possibility that the defence will be impaired.
Senior Justice Isaacs stressed that there was no evidence Dean was subjected to pre-trial incarceration as “his bail was granted fairly readily”.
The judge also said nothing appeared out of the usual concerning Dean’s anxiety and concern as “I expect a person charged with a crime to experience some anxiety and to be concerned, bearing in mind that his liberty is at stake”.
“There is no evidence that the applicant’s anxiety or concern reduced him to a state where he needed expert intervention for instance, or to any other demonstrable extreme state of mind, for that matter, was caused by these proceedings.”
Senior Justice Isaacs, in dismissing the application, ultimately found that “apart from the length of the delay, no identifiable prejudice has been shown to exist so that a fair trial cannot be had”.
Dean is now left with a dilemma as Murrio Ducille was only instructed to argue the constitutional motion and his initial lawyer, Ian Cargill, withdrew once informed of the motion being filed in December.
A status hearing was fixed for March 28. Algernon Allen II appeared for the Crown in the motion.