Free men jailed as CICA orders retrial in gun case

| 26/08/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward

(CNS): Two local men who walked free from court last year when a judge threw out serious firearms charges against them were remanded in custody Friday, after the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal ordered a retrial following a successful appeal by the crown that the case should have gone to the jury. Walter McLaughlin and Keith Montaque were tried in October for possession of a revolver, a pistol and ammunition found during a police raid at a North Side house where they were staying but they were acquitted by Justice Seymour Panton half way through.

As the presiding trial judge, Justice Panton had accepted defense submissions at the half way stage that there was no way to know if the men’s DNA on the weapons got there through direct contact or secondary transfer.

They argued that there was no evidence the men knew anything about the guns or were in possession of them as they were hidden under a bed and the house belonged to McLaughlin’s father, who although arrested was not charged.

The judge stopped the trial after the crown closed its case, accepting the arguments from the defence attorneys that there was no case for the men to answer. He dismissed the jury and acquitted the men, who were released from custody having been on remand awaiting trial.

But the crown appealed the decision, and on behalf of the director of public prosecutions, the UK-based lawyer Andrew Radcliff QC successfully argued this week that the case should have gone to the jury.

He told the appeal court that, if properly directed, there was enough evidence for jury members to make a decision about the DNA and the circumstances under which the guns and ammunition were found and arrive at their verdict fairly. He said that the case did not hang purely on DNA but other circumstantial evidence as well and the judge should not have usurped the jury’s power.

The defence countered that the judge was aware of all of the evidence and was best placed to decide the implications of the conflicting inferences in the case and whether it was proper or not for a lay jury to make a decision about DNA transfer.

But the Court of Appeal agreed with the crown and found that, if properly directed, it was for the jury to decide the men’s guilt and the judge had erred in law as there was a case to answer.

“In our judgment, the judge’s approach was erroneous in law as he had failed to take into account that the evidence was enough to support the charges of possession,” the appeal court said. The three judge panel indicated that the trial judge on the case was wrong to have made a decision about the question of the DNA when it should have been left to the jury.

Following the order by the appeal court for a retrial, the men were detained into the confines of the court building and then made a brief appearance in Grand Court in an effort to list the case for a trial date, which has not yet been set.

Following a closed door chambers hearing, both men, who arrived at court voluntarily, were remanded in custody until Tuesday, when they will be making bail applications.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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