Legal aid issue delays murder trial

| 12/06/2009

(CNS): The questions surrounding the legal aid applications of the two men accused of the murder of Estella Scott Roberts are likely to delay the trial which was set for August.  Justice Leighton Pusey told Larry Ricketts and Kirkland Henry, who appeared before him today (10 June), to identify the QCs from Jamaica who they wished to engage and that the matter would be now be given the highest priority. Currently neither of the defendants have QCs, and while defence lawyer Ben Tonner has agreed to appear for Henry on the last few occasions, he has said he would not continue to act for him without lead counsel.

Last week the court heard that Henry’s application for Legal Aid to cover the cost of a QC from Jamaica had been refused and that Ricketts’ application was pending and he did not have any counsel to represent him as the local defence lawyer allocated to him, John Furniss, had come off record.

On Friday, 12 June, Justice Pusey said that the chief justice had seized the matter and the court would not be inflexible regarding the defence needs of the two men. Given that the men are now being reconsidered for legal aid, Tonner agreed to continue on for the time being for Henry but suggested the trial date would have to be rescheduled.

Justice Pusey acknowledged the difficulty with the current trial date, especially as Ricketts was still without representation, a matter which he said needed to be addressed as quickly as possible, but steps to find both men suitable counsel were now in train. It was agreed that the Crown and Tonner would confer with the listings office to set another date, but the original date would remain on record until a new time was set for the trial.

Both Ricketts and Henry have pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and kidnapping and, in the case of Henry, rape of Estella Scott Roberts, a local activist and tireless advocate against gender violence, whose body was found in her burnt out car in the dykes area of Barkers in October of 2008.

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  1. Anonymous says:

     I am sure that one of the reasons that any form of representation is hesitant to take this, or any legal aid case is because, they fear that at the end of the day, after all of their hard work, government will be unable to pay them until such time that government can allocate funds into legal aid.

    I have heard stories of legal aid attorneys in the Cayman Islands who, after having their billing hours greatly reduced by the “legal aid billing review team” or whatever they call themselves, not receiving their check for 3 or 4 months after they have submitted their bills.

    I am sure that we can all relate to the fact that regardless if money comes in every month, it has to go out. You know that the utility bills are not going to stop and wait for you to get paid and, given that time, the companies will not hesitate to cut someone off if their payments are delinquent. Perhaps this is the attorneys’ way of saying “ENOUGH ALREADY… I will cut you off”.

    Personally if I was a lawyer I would not want to take on legal aid cases either. 

  2. annoymous says:

    We need a public defender program.  This is the only resolution to this pitfall.

    No one wants to do it.  If we put these measures in place then there would a balance of justice.  As i see it this is one way these men will find a loophole to crawl through under the human rights acts etc.

    we need so many things in this country when it comes to our laws and judiciary and the powers in charge are just collecting fat cheques and heating up their seats and looking celebrity status or blackberry each other daily to comment on who gets invited to whose cocktail, dinner or birthday party.

    We need masteful members of the judiciary not appointments due to friendship, relationships, political means or whatever, we need a judicary that is can be relied on and can do it’s job.

    watch and wait i bet you anything these two men will walk because of this.

  3. Anonymous says:

     Should have stayed with John Furniss…. At least he would have had a chance!

  4. Anonymous says:

    In England the failure to grant legal aid does not constitute a good and sufficient reason to detain a man in custtody pending trial beyond the expiry of custody time limits.  Has Cayman moved back into the dark ages where it seems unimportant that a man languishes in custody (whilst innocent until proven guilty) because of the total chaos and inefficiency of the courts and legal aid department of the Cayman Islands.  Perhaps it is just because of who the victim is that these two defendants are alleged to have murdered that nobody seems to care.  Or is it because of where they come from?  Either way this would be in breach of the new constitution and most certainly would be open to challenge by way of judicial review.  But never mind since they have no money they have no lawyers and so they have no recourse to enforcing their legal rights.  In other words they have no rights.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you suggesting they should be released until they find counsel they deem good enough to represent them ?  If this is what you think I know you are off your rocker.

  5. Cayman Gladiator says:

    It is absolutely unfair for this trial to be delayed because the defendants are unable to see eye to eye with their appointed counsel.

    The country should not be placed in a quandary by the defendants who are making unprecedented requests.

    Instead, the defendants should be understand it is in their best interest to try to get along with their appointed counsel unless the trial will proceed with assistance from the court.

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

    This matter needs to be settled ASAP.

    One potential solution is articulated in the below link where it is explained that it is the job of the court and the judge to assist (but not advocate for) the defendants if they have no counsel.


  6. Anonymous says:

    It is positive that these defendents will receive a proper defence as anything else is simply agateway to an appeal.

    The more vile the charges the more care needs to be applied to insure the rights of the accused are protected.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why not let the government of Jamaica foot the bill for a QC?

    • Anonymous says:

      The Government of Jamaica? Why? What do they have to do with this matter?

      It is Cayman’s duty to provide these men with suitable representation.