Thursday 3 December, 2020

Reid, Pinnock fail to clear third hurdle in bid to quash charges

Ruel Reid (left) and Professor Fritz Pinnock.

Ruel Reid (left) and Professor Fritz Pinnock.

Disappointment continues to reign for former Education Minister, Ruel Reid, and President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Professor Fritz Pinnock, as the Court of Appeal on Friday refused their application to grant leave to appeal a ruling by the Supreme Court last month.

The Full Court of the Supreme Court on Monday, March 2, had denied an application to grant leave for a review of the criminal charges against both men.

The Full Court panel, comprising Justices David Batts, Chester Stamp and Stephane Jackson-Haisley, also refused an application by the men's attorney, Hugh Wildman, to appeal its decision.

The Court of Appeal has also refused an application for a stay of the criminal proceedings in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, pending the determination of the application for permission to appeal the decision of the Full Court.

Additionally, the Appeal Court also awarded costs to the Financial Investigations Division (FID), which has been the focus of the various applications for judicial reviews of the charges against the two accused men.

During the Supreme Court hearing of the matter in February of this year, Wildman had presented arguments which challenged the corruption charges that have been laid against his clients.

The attorney further argued that the police officers who charged his clients were authorised officers of the FID. This action, he argued, was unlawful, as the FID did not have the authority to charge anyone.

Attorneys for the FID had countered those arguments, contended that the men were not arrested or charged by the FID.

The same arguments were mounted before the Court of Appeal.

In its 22-page decision, the Appeal Court explained that the refusal to allow the application to grant leave to appeal the Full Court's decision was based on the fact that the accused men had other options before them to seek to have their criminal charges dismissed.

"In this case, there is clearly an alternative remedy. The alternative process is to pursue the criminal proceedings in the Half-Way Tree Parish Court. The application dealing with these issues is set before a Parish Court Judge on 8 April 2020," wrote Justice Hilary Phillips on behalf of the Court of Appeal panel that also comprised Justices Dennis Morrison and Nicole Simmons.

"In my view, it is certainly well within the powers of that Parish Court Judge to analyse and determine these issues. The Parish Courts in Jamaica have extensive jurisdiction, and Parish Court Judges are called upon to adjudicate on very complex and important criminal and other matters. An argument could not be sustained that the Parish Court is an inferior court lacking the requisite competence to deal with issues pertaining to statutory interpretation or any allegation of abuse of the court’s process," Phillips further wrote.

In further explaining the Court of Appeal's decision, she submitted that, "It should also be noted that the applicant failed to comply with the requirements of rule 56.3(3)(d) of the Civil Procedure Rules, 2002 (CPR), which provides that the applicant for judicial review, in his application, must state whether an alternative form of redress exists and, if so, why judicial review is more appropriate or why the alternative has not been pursued."

She continued that "As said before, it is clear that an alternative remedy existed, which is more appropriate and is still available to the applicants. In all these circumstances, the applicants would have failed in their attempt to persuade the court that their appeal would have a real chance of success.

"I would therefore refuse the application for permission to appeal the Full Court’s decision refusing an application for leave to seek judicial review, as the conclusion that there is alternative redress cannot be faulted," argued Justice Phillips.

Ruel Reid (partly hidden by utility pole) and Professor Fritz Pinnock (centre) making their first appearance at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court in Half-Way Tree in police custody on October 10 last year. 

Reid, his wife Sharen and their daughter, Sharelle, along with Pinnock and Brown’s Town Division Councillor, Kim Brown-Lawrence, are facing a number of criminal charges following a corruption probe in relation to the Education Ministry and the CMU.

Reid and Pinnock are facing the bulk of the charges. They are charged with breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law, and beaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Sharen Reid and her daughter, as well as Brown-Lawrence, are all charged with possession of criminal property and conspiracy to defraud.

The five were granted bail when they first appeared in court on October 10 last year, one day after they were arrested in co-ordinated pre-dawn raids across three parishes, and were subsequently charged by the police.

To date, Wildman has failed thrice in his bid to have the criminal charges laid against Reid and Pinnock quashed through a judicial review of the matters for which they are before the courts.

In December of last year, Wildman, along with attorneys Lois Pinnock and Faith Gordon, had argued that the FID did not have the authority to bring charges against Reid and Pinnock.

They submitted that the FID is an investigative body, and investigators there were not empowered under the FID Act to arrest and charge the men.

However, in his 31-page judgment, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes said the attorneys had failed to convince him or present evidence as to why the matter should go before the Judicial Review Court.

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