‘Punch n play’ case collapses

| 06/02/2014

(CNS): A jury of four women and three men were directed to find a couple accused of forging two winning supermarket scratch cards not guilty on Wednesday before the trial even began because the crown was unable to produce the evidence required to prosecute the three year old case. Following two days of legal arguments this week, the failure of the crown to be able to produce the necessary verification required to support a fundamental piece of evidence led the judge to dismiss an application by prosecuting counsel for an adjournment as correspondence produced by the crown demonstrated it was very unlikely to get the evidence any time soon.

As a result, Andre and Sasha Espeut, who were accused of forging cards showing they had won $1,000 and $2,500 respectively in the ‘punch n play’ summer promotion by Fosters Food Fair were released by the court after three years of waiting for their case to be heard.

The crown had claimed the couple had doctored winning cards, which were only valued at $1, to misrepresent their winnings, an allegations denied by the couple. The basic evidence in the case against the couple, the crown had claimed, was a spreadsheet supplied by the company that makes the cards, which listed the numbers of winning tickets.

However, the origin and accuracy of the spreadsheet was in question, and despite having reviewed the case many times over the last three years, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police officers investigating all failed to address the fundamental fact that there was no supporting evidence from the people who had produced the spreadsheet to meet the standards of evidence required in law.

As a result, on Tuesday Justice Charles Quin, who presided over the case, ruled that it was inadmissible following an application by defence attorneys Lucy Organ and Fiona Robertson from Samson & McGrath, who were representing the couple.

With the crucial evidence in its case against the Esputes thrown out, Toyin Salako, prosecuting counsel, asked for time to contact the company that made the cards. Following communication between the RCIPS and Scratch Off, the makers of the cards based in Ohio, the firm told the officer in the case that it would need several weeks to contact its legal department in order to supply information. 

Nevertheless, the crown made an application for a further 24 hour adjournment Wednesday, which Justice Quin declined. With the defence objecting to the adjournment on the grounds that their clients had been waiting for trial since 2010, the judge was extremely sympathetic to the defence team, who had also pointed to the ongoing adjournments and reviews of this case over the last three years. The attorneys said they failed to understand how the crown was still missing what it had described as “fundamental information” for the case.

The case had first appeared in Summary Court in late 2010, where it remained until January 2012, when the coupled elected a jury trial. A trial date was then vacated until after a related case was dealt with and a new trial date was fixed for July of last year. However, for reasons unrelated to the defence, the trial was postponed again until this week.

Given that the crown admitted that it could take weeks before they could find the information necessary to verify the evidence, if at all, the judge pointed out the futility of a twenty-four hour adjournment sought by crown counsel, as he asked the jury to render a not guilty verdict and acquit the couple.

Throughout the case it was noted that Salako had not conducted the matter during the delays and had inherited the case a matter of days before the trial, despite the concerns raised by the judge regarding the public prosecutor’s office and the officers in the case, who had over the last three years failed to pick up on the fundamental error.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    How can the DPP make such a mess of case after case after case without consequences? They had 3 years to get an affidavit to support a spreadsheet.  Maybe an afternoon of work and the very first step needed to put together the prosecution case and show that the tickets were not meant to have been winners.  And they sat on their well paid behinds and did absolutely nothing! 

    How many criminals have gone free, how many innocent people have been dragged through the courts, how many millions of dollars have been spent and how much court time has been wasted by these incompetent fools without one single comment or consequence?

    What does it take for someone to lose their job at CIG?  The DPP fails at every task it is given and has been doing so for years and years and apparently that's OK. 

    This place is unbelievable.

  2. Cayman Accountability says:

    Where are the copies of the files via email requests? Why is CI Govt in the dark ages? All the Law Firms here use an email search & archiving system that makes this a 30 second forensic trail search.  Why is are the Keystone Cops so behind?  Don't tell me they don't have the budget or resources.  Get your act together!!! Simple project management  and IT tools available

     No more dog ate my homework excuses!

  3. marius voiculescu says:

    I truly wish that I had more time to write a more thoughtful paper regarding my experiences with the former Legal Department/DPP; unfortunately I do not.  However, two conclusions one would most likely reach are that (1) next to the circus the DPP and the Office of the Attorney General are the second-best comedy show in town – some would disagree and say that they are best, but who am I to argue (2)  they do foolish things, but with great enthusiasm

    Napoleone Bonaparte once said that in politics "stupidity is not a handicap".  Like Nostradamus many years before him, he accurately foretold the nature of the Office of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.  It's too bad however that all the mumbling, bumbling and stumbling of these two offices are at the public's expense – 4th rate service, 1st rate comedy show!

    Marius Voiculescu


  4. Anonymous says:

    These last few years many of us have been flabbergasted at the weak performance of the legal system that is supposed to PROTECT law-abiding citizens from criminals.

    Either the police and the judiciary are in cahoots to let these thugs, vagabonds and thieves back on the streets…OR

    A very low IQ police type is hired so that the court can always have the final say.

    Of course, the probable answer is that it is a combination of the two. I'll find out for you guys at the next Lodge meeting in April.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Next up…they'll sue for wrongful arrest. Including emotional trauma and damage to personal reputation. Might as well throw in legal costs for a defence, meals, transportation, missed vacation time, clothing allowance for court dates. If this were the U.S., they could retire! Not bad for a couple of $1 tickets!

  6. marius voiculescu says:

    Five years have passed since the DPP prosecuted me for 0.004 oz of ganja (including tobacco).  As few will remember, I was "caught" at the airport with a half-smoked spliff tucked behind the tinfoil of a cigarette pack that I had found along with a $10 bill on the floor of my former parking lot.  The DPP (at the time had some other manufactured name to hide their astounding incompetence) charged me with possession of the half-smoked spliff despite the fact that their urine test showed that I was clean of any drugs.  The DNA found on the half-smoked spliff excluded me as a contributor, and an owner.  To make a long story short, I did not smoke that half-smoked spliff, was not a ganja smoker, and had no reason to carry a half-smoked spliff through an international airport.  Wanting to make an example of me, the DPP, in their infinite wisdome dragged me through 22 Summary Court, 8 Grand Court, and 4 Court of Appeal appearances, forcing me to personally spend over $32,000 US.  Thankfully, my former attorney saved me another $20,000 US by completing my appeal pro-bono.  I mention this because five years later things appear to have changed very little. 

    This is not a statement on the innocence or guilt of the accused, but rather a statement about the continued INCOMPETENCE of the DPP.  This utter incompetence completely undermines the entire legal system, the public's confidence in it, and the public's respect for the integrity and fairness of it.  Until people start asking for true change there is little incentive for the DPP to do anything differently.  Consequently, many who are guilty will continue to walk away free, and a few innocent people will continue to be persecuted over matters that they are not guilty of.  To add insult to injury, many at the DPP will be promoted and awarded some Order or another for having greatly contributed to the Cayman Islands and to society.  Strip away the facade and you're left with a broken system, incompetent leaders, a community that feels less and less safe, and a great big hole in your pocket (with little to show for in return).  Happy thoughts to consider…

    Marius Voiculescu

  7. Anonymous says:

    The legal system in the Cayman Islands is a joke. It is agenda-driven by those with the authority to call the shots as they wish. Guess what, not everyone is blind. We see what you are all up to. This is nothing but a big Punch and Judy show. 

    There are no 2 sides in this matter with a host of guillible onlookers. There is one side and a host of guillible onlookers.


    Right is right and wrong is wrong. When a legal system obfuscates this simple truth, it cannot be credible. Oh but they wear wigs and dress up, don't they? Yes they do, but perfume on a pig changeth not the pig.

    I do declare that the emperor has on no clothes.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It's time some of these gatekeepers were themselves taken to court for undermining the credibility of the DPP. It just goes on and on, year after year, as if there's some form of ondless official forgiveness and indulgence for this expensive incompetence that leads to so many injustices.

  9. Anonymous says:

    this whole is a thing is farce. is not gambling illegal in the very FIRST place? 

  10. Anonymous says:

    Something is very wrong in the DPP.  One amateur mistake after anoher.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cant you all see the DPP is destroying the country? what a useless bunch! they have set free so many  criminals on these islands.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yet another waste of public money and court resources by the RCIPS and the prosecutors. What a farce!

  12. Walter Kovacs says:

    Another fiasco involving the office of the DPP…it's is mind boggling in this day and age of human rights and BOR legislation that this office still seems to operate like it is in the dark ages…alas, once again, there will be great public outcry for something to be done and in a matter of days, all will be quiet again, the status quo will remain and so will the DPP..to continue bumbling their way through life until the next time…

    • Anonymous says:

      If Caymanians were in those positions and bitching the system, they would've been booted out long ago. Have a great day.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Does the office of Public Prosecutions ever win a case?!! As champions of the law, they should be very versed as to what can and cannot be submitted as evidedence. They should all be replaced in that offce as this is becoming the norm.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a waste of public funds! we all cry about bringing proffionals  from overseas. We need to think this over, import independent prosecutors from different countries.

      Hire them on a  6 month basis. Get rid of the high liabilities….. and most of all get the job done.

  14. SSM345 says:

    3yrs to get your act together and gather evidnece supporting a "spreadsheet".

    I sense another slew of QC's in our midst. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Another exemplary officer reaping accolades for doing nothing.  It could only be one of those highly trained expats to fill such a position.  Yet, when locals apply, for jobs in the RCIPS, they are rejected, they do not meet the criteria and more and more excuses.  Imported helpers and common labourers fill those posts in the RCIPS, and they are qualified.  Is anyone at the wheel, the car is leaving the paved patch.

  15. Bling Man says:

    Tipical govment work.

  16. Otherview says:

    Par for the course…………very sad indeed, the dark side prevails once again.

  17. Anonymous says:

    How does anybody in the DPP office become a QC after one disaster after another by that department?

    • A Realist says:

      Basically because in most jurisdictions the DPP is a QC so to be on "par" with them she got the title when she obtained the post.

      The title was given to Samuel Bungles err…. Bulgin when he became Atorney General.

  18. Anonymous says:

    More incompetence.  This sort of mistake undermines the entire legal system.  If it happened once it could be understood.  But it happens again and again.  Is someone senior going to take responsibility and resign?

    • Anonymous says:

      You must be writing from overseas. This is Cayman. As a number of astute observers have noted this farce. Will result in decorations, promotions and much back slapping in the hallowed halls of the DPP's office. After all it can hardly be the DPP's fault that a judge decided to so direct the jury.

      well done DPP! Yet again we see them ever so valiantly wresting disaster from the jaws of victory.

      i only hope the walls of their "chambers" are mirrored so they can look themselves full on and without deflecting their gaze commend themselves for yet another unmitigated cock-up.