'No Grounds For Appeal' Of Frank Smith Acquittal

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC.

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC.


Tribune Chief Reporter


ATTORNEY Wayne Munroe, QC, yesterday suggested the government did not have any legal grounds to appeal the Court of Appeal's ruling on Frank Smith's acquittal.

Mr Munroe noted the Court of Appeal Act was amended in 1996 to make it the final court to appeal rulings from the Magistrate's Court.

He also revealed to The Tribune that his starting fee used to be $9,500 per day, adding it was feasible a more senior QC could charge $20,000 per day. There have been concerns about how much taxpayer money was used to fund the failed prosecution and appeal against Mr Smith considering the government hired an English QC during the trial.

In February, Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt acquitted and discharged Mr Smith of 15 criminal charges against him.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal unanimously rebuked the Crown's appeal of that ruling.

"Clearly final must mean you can't go nowhere else from there," Mr Munroe said, who added there was no legal reason to tell a court that you want to appeal.

He was referring to the announcement made by Crown attorney Neil Braithwaite following the court's oral ruling.

Mr Braithwaite indicated the Crown's intent to appeal the decision to the London-based Privy Council, and requested a date be set for the Crown's application for leave to appeal to be heard.

The request was rebuked by the appellate judges, particularly Justice Stella Crane-Scott, who said courts take a "dim view" of what she said is the "very unusual" practice of attorneys standing up "in the face of the court" to indicate their intent to appeal.

Meanwhile, Justice Jon Isaacs noted that the Crown faced an even "more fundamental" issue: "You haven't even read the decision of the court."

Yesterday, Mr Munroe said: "There is no reason to tell a court you want to appeal.

"There is only one legal reason and that is when you have to tell a court that to get some immediate relief like in a matter concerning the Bail Act, and you need to do it in order for the person not to be released.

"There is no reason whatsoever to tell Court of Appeal you are appealing their decision," Mr Munroe continued, "no legal reason anyway.

"The question is if there is some other reason to do it."

When asked whether he felt the move was politically-motivated, Mr Munroe said: "That comes to mind."

Mr Munroe continued: "From my reading of that provision of the Court of Appeal Act you cannot appeal an appellate decision from a Magistrate's Court. I believe also an appeal from a disciplinary tribunal or ethics committee of the Bar, is also final.

"It is what it is. I wish they could go to the Privy Council, they are not so nice when it comes to talking about the award of contract in unusual circumstances."

Mr Munroe was referring to the chief magistrate's comments about the actions of Health Minister Dr Duane Sands and National Security Minister Marvin Dames.

Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt criticised both Cabinet ministers for the "egregious" way in which they interacted with lead witness Barbara Hanna prior to a police investigation into her claims, charging that their conduct gave the appearance of a "political flavour to a curious bystander".

In their written ruling, the appellate judges said they "can appreciate" her concerns.


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