After being made to consistently come before the court for several months without any meaningful progress in her traffic matter, an unrepresented woman successfully had her case thrown out of the Magistrate’s Court last week.
Sherene Valencia-Baptiste’s October 2016 matter of driving without due care and attention has seen a series of back-to-back adjournments since her first court arraignment.
And prior to her latest appearance, the court had instructed the police prosecutions department that they were to be prepared to start the trial at the beginning of September.
But when the September date rolled around last week, police prosecutor Roger Williams told the court he was on his final week in the department and would not be taking up the case.
He told the court another prosecutor would receive conduct of the matter because it would be counterproductive if he (Williams) should start a case that he would not be able to complete.
He then said the case would have to be pushed to another date.
Throw it out
But a seemingly frustrated Valencia-Baptiste called for the court to have the matter dismissed.
She said she first appeared in court on February 22 this year when she pleaded not guilty. A trial date was then set for May 3 but police prosecutors did not come prepared on that day so the matter was again adjourned to June 19.
When she came to court for that June date, the Crown did not have the woman’s court file and their witness was also absent.
The matter was subsequently pushed to September 3 on a final adjournment order.
“I am disgusted to be coming here time after time and the last time I nearly bust my tail in the mud coming to court to get the same thing all the time,” Valencia-Baptiste said.
“I work at the hospital … I am putting aside my patients. I am on call for the doctors and I come here every time to get the same thing. I would like this case to be dismissed.”
Magistrate Giselle Jackman-Lumy – who had considered adjourning the matter for another time – subsequently agreed to dismiss the matter.
Why police aren’t prepared
The court was told that the underlying cause of police prosecutors coming to court unprepared is that many officers do not have a diary with the dates they are to appear in court.
But Magistrate Jackman-Lumy said that rationale was not acceptable.
“Even if they [police officers] don’t have a diary, pharmacies give free calendars when it’s Christmas time. Go and buy a pack of sweeties and keep the calendar and write it in. This can’t be good enough,” she said.
Police should do better
Magistrate Jackman-Lumy, who is one of the newest magistrates to this jurisdiction, urged the police to do better.
“I don’t know how things are done in the RVIPF but even me as an attorney, I can’t hand in an application for vacation unless I indicate what arrangements will be made for the matters that I have within that period – who will be reassigned, who will go to court, who will deal with the trials and the submissions and I think the same standards have to be for the police officers as well.”
She said when a matter shows up on the court’s list and the investigating officer is absent or on leave, it clogs the judicial process.
She further said if the court is informed prior to any vacation dates, court matters could then be properly scheduled.
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