Ten men who were arrested for COVID-19 violations last May had their case dismissed after the charging officers failed to appear before the Arima Magistrates’ Court.
When the matter was called yesterday, the complainant, PC Hannaway was not present in the court nor did the prosecution provide the disclosure ordered by Magistrate Avion Gill back in December.
On May 21, Arouca police responded to reports of a party along Parrot Drive, Bon Air Gardens, Arouca. They arrested the men and charged them for breaching Regulation 3 (1)(b)(i) of the Public Health 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) No.11 Regulations, 2020.
They spent four days at the La Horquetta Police Station before their attorneys Nestor Dinnoo-Alloy and Shelley-Ann Crawford were able to secure station bail for them.
On May 26, the men had their first virtual hearing at the Arima Police Station, and Gill allowed the bail to stand. She adjourned the matter to August 26. However, due to electrical issues on that day, she moved the matter to December 1.
On that day Dinnoo-Alloy made an oral submission to Gill and the prosecution to have the matter discontinued as the Regulation did not prohibit gatherings of more than five people in a private residence. He contended that the Regulation only penalised gatherings in a public place.
Although the prosecutor, Cpl Ramai agreed that the application to dismiss had merit, she refused to discontinue the matter and requested an adjournment to confirm with PC Hannaway that the arrest took place at a private residence.
When all parties returned to court on December 9, Crawford submitted to the court that Hannaway’s failure to appear violated Section 59 of the Summary Courts Act. However, Ramai said she needed time to speak to the police’s legal officer. Gill adjourned to December 11. During that hearing, Ramai said that based on her instructions, it was beyond her authority to discontinue the matter.
Gill set a trial for December 6 and ordered the prosecution to provide disclosure to the defence team on or before December 31. However, this was not done.
After six appearances spanning seven months, Gill dismissed the matter, and the men were freed of the charges.