Defence raises racism allegations in corruption case

| 27/07/2021

(CNS): A lawyer defending Evita Dixon, a former legal executive with the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) charged with a breach of trust, challenged the crown’s case against her on Monday, as he pointed to evidence that the office was a toxic environment. Courtney Griffiths QC told a jury that the black and Caymanian staff there, including crown counsel, were discriminated against under the supervision of the now departed director of public prosecutions, Patrick Moran, and it was against this backdrop that Dixon found herself accused of something she did not do.

Dixon is accused of hiding a file and doctoring computer entries in relation to a charge against her son for consumption and possession of ganja. As he defended the case against her, the lawyer focused on the claim that his client had been set up.

As he summarized Dixon’s defence for the jury, Griffiths said that there was a lot more to the allegation than the simple case the crown had presented, that she misguidedly tried to protect her son from prosecution by hiding the file about his ganja arrest in order to run out the clock on the time period for charging, thereby breaching her position of trust.

The independent prosecutor brought from the UK to try the case, given the conflict for the ODPP, had said that Dixon was the only person with a motive and access. Rory Field had dismissed the allegations of racism and bullying in the office as just the usual inter-office disputes common in many work environments.

However, Griffiths said that Dixon was the victim of serious bullying and racism, as were others in the office, despite attempts by the crown to make light of what one lawyer had called a toxic workplace. Griffiths reminded the jury of evidence they had heard in the case from other members of staff that after Moran took over from Cheryll Richards QC, the former DPP, when she was made a judge, the atmosphere had changed, with the implication that Moran was overseeing a department where white staff were elevated over locals and pitched against non-white staff.

During the course of the trial, the jury had also heard that Moran had resigned from the ODPP early this year in the wake of news that an internal audit was being conducted in the department as a result of complaints that had been made by other staff. While few details of what was going on were revealed from the audit, at least two prosecutors had been clear in their evidence that all was not well in the office and that there was no doubt that under the supervision of Moran some people were victims of racial discrimination.

Griffiths also said that it was Moran who had triggered the investigation against Dixon and called in the anti-corruption police. He asked the jury to consider exactly what was it that had triggered this internal corruption probe, as he argued that his client had not tried to doctor the computer and was even the person who had taken the physical file, which appeared to have been misplaced, to a prosecutor for ruling.

He also suggested that although Moran “was central to this case”, he had not been called by prosecutors, even though it is believed he is still in Cayman. Instead, his statement was simply read to the jury. In trial, where hiding a file was central to the crown’s case, it was the director who appeared to be hiding, Griffiths told the jury, as he described Moran’s supervision of the department and actions as “scandalous”.

He said that his client, who had worked in the office for more than 18 years, found herself on the receiving end of this racism-fuelled bullying. This and the chain of events and circumstances surrounding the case, which appeared to have taken an inordinate amount of time to reach the point where charges were brought, could all very easily be part of the campaign to remove local staff, he suggested.

The case continues.


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Category: Courts, Crime

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