Lawyers blamed for acquittal

| 26/11/2014

(CNS): The director of public prosecutions (DPP) and a long list of experienced QCs and local counsel were all in the firing line last week for what will prove to be a costly error regarding the acquittal of five suspects in a bank robbery. DPP Cheryll Richards QC and UK counsel James Curtis QC joined a number of local lawyers who were all forced to apologize to the appeal court Friday on behalf of the lawyers who had led them in the Cayman National Bank trial last year. The panel of judges said the irregularity leading to the acquittal of Andre Burton, Rennie Cole, George Mignott and David Tamasa was down to a failure on the part of all the lawyers involved, including the crown,as well as an error by the judge.

Although Cayman’s DPP did not handle the appeal before the higher court last week, she had led the prosecution’s case against the men at trial last year. As a result, Richards was called to the appeal court Friday to answer, along with other lawyers involved in the original trial, why there had been a failure on all of the lawyers’ parts to deal with a specific direction regarding the decision by the defendants not to give evidence.

Richards accepted it was counsels’ duty to remind the judge about the necessary direction but they had not done so. Not one of the more than ten lawyers at the trial had pointed out that the judge had to ask all of the defendants in open court if they were aware that an adverse inference could be drawn by the jury as a result of their failure to answer the charges.

The attorneys all apologized to the courts and insisted it was an oversight on their part and no one noticed that the judge had not given the necessary direction to the defendants. All of them insisted that there was not a defense conspiracy of silence in order to create the grounds for an appeal. James Curtis QC, who represented Tamasa at trial and in the appeal, said the failure to remind the judge was not deliberate. “We fall on our sword on the basis that we simply did not notice it,” he said.

The director of public prosecutions said it was an oversight by the crown as well.

Justice Elliott Mottley made it clear Friday, when the convictions of four men convicted in the CNB robbery were quashed, that their successful appeals had nothing to do with the facts of the case and the key witness but rather a mistake by the judge “in which all counsel participated”, which led to a “material irregularity” in the trial process, and as a result the appeal court had to overturn the convictions.

There will now need to be a very costly retrial, in which the men who are again facing serious charges will be instructing overseas counsel on the legal aid ticket. Although QCs are paid the same $135 legal aid hourly rate as other counsel, there is the additional costs of their flights and accommodation.

The crown will also have to pick up its own tab to represent its case all over again and recall all of its witnesses, including the controversial ‘supergrass’ Marlon Dillon, who was recently released from jail and is understood to be in witness protection.’

The Court of Appeal ordered that the retrial take place as early as possible next year, despite the packed courtroom calendar.

Category: Crime

Comments (31)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    I warned you people a few months back about how some of your attorneys suck and that is on both sides. I am happy because my attorney will beat your attorney every time.

    Ever wonder how it seems people around here are getting away with murder? They are because they court here in cayman is just not right. The attorneys for the most part suck.

    A soultion would be to have some outside attorneys from london do all of the practicing on the island after all it is english law. The overseas attorneys would partner with the local attorney and help them out.

    Ever wonder why your former leader hired outside help?

    and trials would be blind only based on the paperwork and facts

    • Anonymous says:

      Don't talk rubbish. Most of our lawyers are expats, and in major cases even the government instructs senior counsel from London as they did in the McKeeva Bushcase.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So if I get this right, the very people who charged a fortune to represent at the trial now all come back to charge another fortune because they are all incompetent???  You could not make this up.  They should have to come back in their own time, not legal aids.

  3. J. Dillinger says:

    Is it morally wrong to rob a bank? Or legally wrong? Just asking

  4. Anonymous says:

    Quietly Change the system!       

  5. Anonymous says:

    What country or countries do these lawyers come from?  Just askin'!

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you've ever had the privelage of service the court system on jury duty, this would come as no surprise. I have never seen such an unorganised fiasco as witnessed in our courts. Lot of big egos in that building, and few who know what is going on or were. One word describes it. Embarassing

  7. Anonymous says:

    It is not that hard a job to read the script of the right direction.  Seriously.

  8. Anonymous says:



    We are all human and sometimes we overlook things.  You know it must be human error when the defence says they missed it too, at least so they say, because they had a duty to point it out too.  Still, the evidence is clear.

  9. Just Sayin' says:

    Arse and elbow are the two words that spring to mind.

  10. Anonymous says:

    what incompetency!!!. Wow!!! andwe  continue paying these jokers. Goodness me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Only in Cayman is this allowed to continue. I smell promotion in the air.

  12. Anonymous says:

    You mean the police is not to be blamed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am sure they did something wrong!

    We need to appeal this appeal.

  13. Anonymous says:

    WHo was the JUDGE?

    Cayman must be getting some high regards in the regional judiciary- as it is being upheld with highest merits!!!

    Keep up the good work Grand Court and Court of appeal! Let the law and judicial process proceed int he name of democracy and fairness to all…..

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whose job is on the line?  Is it mine?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Give them some credit, they are only getting $135.00 per hour, instead of their usual $500 and upwards. They shouldn't be held accountable for that kind of measly sum. 

  16. Anonymous says:

    "…We fall on our sword…", 

    No, please do not do that; it is too messy.

    How about refunding 50% of your fees? That would be nice and clean.

    It would probably hurt you posh fat cats more than the sword bit. 

  17. Anonymous says:

    Legality trumps justice.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I wish this could be extended to government where individuals were made to accept the blame for the sad state of affairs of the country's finances. There needs to be more accountability and transparency. 

  19. Anonymous says:

    Fair enough but its rather odd that the judge wasnt called into question also for  his 'error' by the Court of Apeal.  Oh well sometimes the system is crappy but its still the best weve got.

  20. Anonymous says:

    More money! More travel! More for the taxpayers to pay.

    Anybody to be held to account….Nah! Didn't think so!  

  21. Local Yokel says:

    Why bother to have a comments section on this story. Aren’t we precluded by law from questioning or criticizing the courts? Something about the infallibility of those who wear robes……

    • Anonymous says:

      Don't forget the really cool wigs.

      Anyone wearing one of those white curlies can never make a mistake.

      Kinda like the pointy hats that are worn in Rome.

  22. Anonymous says:

    And what is new here?! Other than being forced to admit it?!!!

    And what will be done about it????

  23. Anonymous says:

    Am I right to assume that these individuals will repaying their fees at making good the costs of the appeal and retrial?