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QC : Magistrate was Careful

 Defense Attorney, Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Keith Knight on Wednesday reasoned to Court of Appeal Justices that in her ruling in the Frank Smith extortion and bribery trial, Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt took great care in coming to her decision.

Following testimony from the police, sitting Cabinet Ministers Dr. Duane Sands and Marvin Dames and the Crown’s key witness Barbara Hanna, the Chief Magistrate in February acquitted Mr. Smith of the charges.

The Prosecution led evidence that the former Progressive Liberal Party  MP and Public Hospitals Chairman  extorted thousands of dollars from Ms. Hanna,  having awarded her Magic Touch Cleaning Company a contract for the Critical Care Block of the Princess Margaret Hospital.

Lawyers for the Crown say  the case  should be  sent back to the lower court to be heard by a different Magistrate considering that Mrs. Ferguson- Pratt erred in her ruling.

The Defense,  however,  argues that the Chief Magistrate’s decision surpassed the bar where excellence began and that whatever position she took was within her bounds as a Magistrate.

According to Mr. Knight, Mrs. Ferguson- Pratt had to consider the case as a whole to properly come to a conclusion  and  she had to take into account the witness’ demeanor.

The Attorney examined key evidence like telephone logs and the bank statement which he said was necessary, as they did not add to the Crown’s case that Mr. Smith extorted money from Mrs. Hanna.

Mr. Knight noted that based on evidence introduced by the prosecution to establish that there was regular communication between Ms. Hanna and Mr. Smith, it was revealed that 92 per cent of the calls were made from Ms. Hanna to Mr. Smith.

He explained that the call logs revealed that Health Minister Dr. Sands communicated with Ms. Hanna prior to her giving a statement to the police, the night before elections and on election night.

All of this,  he stressed,  had to be taken into account by the chief magistrate considering Ms. Hanna said she felt she was being used,  even though she didn’t specify by whom.

Mr. Knight   argued that Ms. Hanna received a $1.8 million cleaning contract from Dr. Sands who gave the approval without board approval.

This too,  he said,  must be taken into account given Ms. Hanna’s comments that she felt pressured and that she was being used. 

Mr.Knight then referred  to Ms. Hanna’s call to Mr. Smith, warning him to be careful because they are out to get you.

He added it was reasonable in the Chief Magistrate’s assessment to take into consideration if there were puppeteers. 

Mr. Knight asserted that the credibility of the case was compromised as there were discrepancies between Dr. Sands’ and Minister Dames’ testimonies as well as Minister Dames’ and ACP Rolle’s testimonies. 

The   Queens Counsel  also charged that the bank record proves nothing and that it didn’t add nor subtract anything from the case.

The purpose of the bank record,  he said,  was to refute that Ms. Hanna was incapable of paying $5000 monthly to Mr. Smith because of her financial status.

As a result, during the trial the Defense requested a Supreme Court order to gain access to Ms. Hanna’s expenditure,  because without it, her financial status was unknown.

The order was not granted.  However  Mr.  Knight noted that the bank statement did contradict the point made by Ms. Hanna that she was unable to pay herself a salary because she was being extorted by Mr. Smith.

On Tuesday the crown asserted that throughout the trial,  Ms. Hanna maintained that she was extorted  $5000 monthly by  Mr. Smith,   which  it claimed  was the important fact in the case.

Mr. Knight refuting that claim,  said that just because she maintained that point, didn’t make it truthful.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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