New law fills up Grand Court lists

| 14/03/2011

(CNS): Recent changes to the Criminal Procedure Code have led to a number of serious criminal cases reaching the Grand Court within days of charges being laid by police. Two men accused of mugging tourists at Barefoot Beach in East End and another two defendants charged with the West Bay Tortuga robbery appeared in the Grand Court Friday morning on what was already a long list of first time case mentions. Neither Dennis Jordan Ebanks and John Jason McLaughlin, who are charged with robbing over $2,000 from the Tortuga store, nor Michael McLaughlin and Trent Bodden, who are accusing of taking $20 and an underwater camera from a couple at the beach in East End, entered pleas as no papers were prepared in the cases.

Michael McLaughlin appeared without an attorney and told the court he wanted to represent himself but he was warned by Justice Marva Mcdonald-Bishop that, given the charges against him, he needed legal representation and advised him to find a lawyer as he would be entitled to legal aid. She asked him if he was trained in the law, and when the accused man said he was not she pointed out that he must be given an opportunity to find an attorney so that further down the line, if he was convicted of the crime, he couldn’t claim he was not given an opportunity to be properly represented.

As a result of the recent legislative changes that allow serious criminal cases to be delivered up to the Grand Court without the need for a preliminary enquiry, the number of defendants on the list for the mention on Friday morning had grown significantly.

With no indictments prepared by the crown in the new cases, ongoing legal wrangling with older cases and a shortage of attorneys willing to undertake criminal legal aid work, many of the cases were passed over to new dates. However, with a shortage of courtroom space, the judge had to warn the lawyers on both the crown and the defence sides to limit the cases they were setting for the weeks ahead as she said the lists would simply become too long to be handled.

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