Lawyer storms out of court, returns shortly after

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, May 02, 2019

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ATTORNEY Hugh Wildman on Monday stormed out of a courtroom at Supreme Court after Justice Georgiana Fraser refused to grant him leave to seek judicial review after she ruled that the trial against accused murderer Mervin Cameron must proceed and that the charges against him would not be quashed.

The accused is jointly charged with Christopher Wilson for the murder of 43-year-old deputy chief of security at Jamaica Postal Service Barrington Davis and Davis's friend Patricia Barnswell.

The two were kidnapped from Davis's St John's Heights home in St Catherine in August 2012 and their bodies found with gunshot wounds in bushes at Inswood, also in that parish, less than a month later.

Last April, Cameron, who in 2018 had been in custody for five years without his matter being tried, filed a constitutional motion in the Supreme Court asking for his immediate release on the grounds that his constitutional rights were being breached as a result of the delay in the case being tried.

Owing to the length of time that had passed, Cameron, who was represented by Wildman, also argued that his right to be tried within a reasonable time was violated.

Consequently, the court had ruled in Cameron's favour and had ordered that he should be awarded constitutional damages. However, the amount has not yet been determined.

The court also ruled then that unless there was earlier intervention by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cameron's preliminary hearing must be completed by May 30 and a decision be made as to whether the matter should proceed to trial, failing which Cameron must be released and the charge in the parish court stayed.

Additionally, the judges ruled that if Cameron's case is committed for trial or placed before the Circuit Court on a voluntary bill of indictment, his trial must begin before the end of the Hilary term in April, failing which trial shall be discontinued unless the delay is due to the defence.

As a result of the Full Court's ruling, Wildman, appearing in court Monday for Cameron's trial on murder and kidnapping charges, argued in court that the trial should not proceed as the prosecution had ignored the court's ruling and that if the trial proceeds, it would be illegal.

The attorney explained that on the first trial date, which was set on January 28, he had showed up to court for trial and was ready to proceed but he was told that Wilson's attorney, William Hines, who was murdered, had gone missing and therefore an adjournment was being sought. At the time, he said the matter was taken off that trial list and placed on the plea and case management hearing list.

“We have always been ready and willing to proceed and the record will show that at no time the defence asked for an adjournment,” he submitted.

He then told the judge that he was objecting to the commencement of the trial and that if the court ruled differently, he would be seeking leave to have the indictment quashed.

“Any attempt by the prosecution to start the trial would be a breach of Mr Cameron's constitutional rights,” he argued.

He then explained that he had written to the DDP seeking clarity on their next move forward, but he had not got a response, hence he hadn't sought a judicial review at the time.

The prosecutor, in response, indicated that after the trial was aborted in January another trial date was set, but on that date Wildman had turned up late,and when he appeared, told the court that he was late because of unforeseen events and that he agreed with the Crown that the matter be adjourned.

However, the prosecutor said despite their best efforts, they were unable to find another trial date to start in the Hilary term, but a trial date was scheduled for the earliest possible time.

Additionally, the prosecutor argued that the Crown could not have started the trial without Wilson, who had absconded, and that when Wildman made the application in the Full Court he had not informed the court that his client was jointly charged.

The Crown indicated that it was ready to proceed on the two last trial dates and had come prepared to start with the witnesses and therefore was not guilty of flouting the Constitutional Court's order.

Justice Fraser, after considering both sides of the argument, ruled that the trial must proceed as the delay was not caused by the prosecution but rather by the defence. She pointed out that, even though the delay was to be blamed on Wilson and his attorney, it was the defence that was at fault. However, Wildman was not pleased with the decision and immediately indicated that he was seeking leave to quash the indictment. But the judge turned down his request, noting that it would only cause further delay.

Wildman then indicated that he was not going to represent the accused any further.

“With all that is going on I don't know if I will allow you to withdraw,” Justice Fraser said.

“I could not proceed [as] I have a duty to protect my client's constitutional rights” Wildman insisted.

“I am not granting any leave,” the judge reiterated.

“I am a creature of this order and I will not proceed in this,” Wildman responded, pointing out that the order was made in the Full Court only in respect of Cameron and not Wilson.

The judge, however, told him that she could stop him from removing himself and that she could only grant a short adjournment for the accused to get a new lawyer or one from the Legal Aid Council (LAC) to assist him.

Wildman at that point packed up his briefcase and stormed out. His co-counsel, Barbara Hines, also indicated that she was withdrawing but remained until the matter was adjourned.

“I did not tell Mr Wildman he can leave, so I don't know how he has packed up and gone,” the judge then remarked, before instructing the registrar to report the attorney's behaviour to the General Legal Council for the necessary action to be taken.

The matter was adjourned briefly for the court to find out if the LAC could provide a legal aid attorney for Cameron. But when the matter resumed, Wildman and his junior both returned and indicated that they had had a change of heart and would be representing the accused.

The trial subsequently started.

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