What Se­crets Are Kept In the High Court?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

With a heavy cam­era in my weak-han­dled hand­bag, along with a note­book and pen, and my phone si­lenced from home, I ven­tured to what I thought would have been my first High Court sit­ting as a re­porter. Work­ing with STAR Pub­lish­ing has brought me to many won­der­ful places and equally pre­sented me with sad­den­ing sto­ries. The most frus­trat­ing one of re­cent has been the case of Roger Pratt. A few months ago I made ac­quain­tance with his wi­dow, Mar­garet Pratt, who only out­lives him be­cause they sailed to Saint Lu­cia to­gether on re­tire­ment.

Roger Pratt was mur­dered on Jan­uary 17, 2014 aboard Mag­netic At­trac­tion, the ves­sel they pur­chased for the un­know­ingly, ill-fated trip. That night, they heard sounds above their heads soon af­ter they set­tled in for bed. Roger went out to in­ves­ti­gate, to find that four masked men were search­ing for money, and both Roger and Mar­garet were pounded re­peat­edly in the process. Roger was tipped over­board (af­ter or from a blow), when one of the rob­bers shouted some­thing in pa­tois, and they fled, leav­ing Mar­garet, in­jured, to call for help.

Po­lice and nearby yachters rushed to as­sist Mar­garet’s May­day call. Ev­i­dence was col­lected and Roger’s body was re­trieved from the wa­ter – life­less. Her hol­i­day, and life as she knew it, was cut short as Mar­garet learnt, hold­ing Roger’s cold hand in the lo­cal am­bu­lance, that he was for­ever gone.

Four sus­pects were brought to court on Fe­bru­ary 25, 2014 all con­fess­ing to mur­der and rob­bery.

Al­most four years later, as in­formed by Mar­garet, I went to what she imag­ined to be the trial of Richie Kern, Jeromine Jones, Kevin De­vaux and Fa­nis Joseph, each for ei­ther rob­bery, caus­ing death or mur­der.

Mar­garet was un­able to at­tend be­cause Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions, Daarsrean Greene – who promised to take up the case per­son­ally – has not com­mu­ni­cated with Mrs. Pratt for months. In this case, ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son, and Mar­garet did not travel to Saint Lu­cia from the United King­dom. The mur­der trial did not oc­cur on Novem­ber 8, 2017 as or­dered on May 12, 2017, partly due to the psy­chi­atric report of Richie Kern’s fit­ness to plead still be­ing un­avail­able. Mar­garet claims, “I think this has been pend­ing since Fe­bru­ary 2017 at least.”

On May 12, 2017, which was the sched­uled date of a voire dire hear­ing, the judge deemed the three avail­able psy­chi­atric re­ports for Richie Kern as un­sat­is­fac­tory. The DPP’s ap­pli­ca­tion for in­dict­ment to be served was re­fused by the judge un­til a sat­is­fac­tory report was sub­mit­ted on July 7, 2017. By then a wit­ness de­scribes the court pro­ceed­ing as a “dis­as­ter”. The psy­chol­o­gist was un­avail­able to give ev­i­dence and the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice was not in pos­ses­sion of the case files. By Novem­ber 8, a wit­ness said, “No pleas were heard.”

Ear­lier this year, DPP Greene ex­horted the me­dia to re­frain pub­lish­ing “any mat­ter which pre­judges is­sues which are to be tried or are be­ing tried by the Court,” as stated in the crim­i­nal code un­der Sec­tion 380, sub­sec­tion H.

As me­dia per­son­nel were not al­lowed into the court­room on Novem­ber 8, whether due to the above-men­tioned law or high court reg­u­la­tion, I re­sorted to ask­ing the first lawyer that walked out of the court­house what usu­ally re­tards a case of such im­por­tance. “It de­pends,” was all he could say, “Since the report was un­avail­able the last time, it would have to be pre­sented this time.” He con­tin­ued, “Some­times, when the trial date is near­ing and the court no­tices that it’s not ready, it’s ad­journed again.”

Nei­ther DPP Greene nor other mem­bers of the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice in­formed Mrs. Pratt – the only wit­ness to the crime – of the case’s ad­journ­ments. She also claims that the High Com­mis­sioner of Saint Lu­cia to Eng­land, Guy May­ers, is not able to give her any in­for­ma­tion ei­ther, be­cause contact with Daarsrean Greene has been un­suc­cess­ful.

Al­though no for­mal in­for­ma­tion has been shared by au­thor­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to Mar­garet, the de­lay is still re­lated to the un­avail­abil­ity of the psy­chi­atric report of Richie Kern’s fit­ness to plead, which has been pend­ing since May 12, 2017. The ex­pert wit­ness (psy­chol­o­gist/psy­chi­a­trist), ac­cord­ing to Mar­garet, has not turned up to court on at least two oc­ca­sions.

Her at­tor­ney in­formed that when the psy­chi­atric report is pre­sented to court, “a tech­ni­cal change to the in­dict­ments to al­low the case to go for­ward with three de­fen­dants in­stead of four” must be made.”

The mat­ter has been fur­ther ad­journed to Novem­ber 24, 2017.

Mar­garet Pratt’s hus­band, Roger Pratt, was mur­dered in Saint Lu­cia in 2014. The case re­lat­ing to his death con­tin­ues to be dragged through the courts.

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