The curious case of the missing evidence…

The last two days have seen an interesting case involving the son of a sitting MP and current Minister of Health, Trevor Moniz, being charged with possession of 2 grams of marijuana and a grinder.

From the outset, I don’t think Mr Moniz’s son should have been charged – to me the amount of drugs was too small to warrant arrest, being obviously for personal use, and, at best, I think taxpayers money would have been better served with issuing a caution.

Of course though, I don’t have all the details – perhaps there were more circumstances to the case and previous cautions.  I don’t know.  But two grams of marijuana, to me, well, it just doesn’t seem worthy of prosecution.

Nor did I think it was worthwhile naming the accused in relationship with his father, the politician.  I was critical of the media doing that under the PLP, and I was equally unhappy with it now under the OBA.

The two above notwithstanding, the relationship of the accused being the son of a prominent politician has suddenly become quite relevant, with the rather surprising resolution of this case with the prosecution (the Crown) presenting no evidence, resulting in the case being thrown out and the charges dropped.

As noted, I don’t think Mr Moniz should have been arrested/charged – but having been charged, the Crown had the opportunity to rethink and withdraw the charges in advance – to proceed with the case and then to apparently fail to provide the evidence (which would have been confiscated by the police at the time), leading to the collapse of the case – well, it just seems rather odd and a waste of taxpayers money.

I’m hoping that a clearer explanation of the ins and outs of this comes out pretty quick.

Right now it appears that the evidence was somehow magicked away, with political connection making this open to charges of corruption in the eyes of the public.

Again, I don’t think Mr Moniz should have been charged in the first place for possession for personal consumption, but having been charged the failure to bring evidence to court just makes the whole thing appear distinctly odd.

I wrote the above as a draft on Thursday, but held it over to see if there would be any updated news.  And there has been.

On Thursday evening the Attorney General released a press release stating, to paraphrase, that the case against Mr Moniz was dropped because the amounts involved (2.1 grams) fell ‘within the normal guidelines for a police caution’.

Now, I agree that the amounts involved fell within those guidelines.  What I don’t understand is why the case went to court in the first place in that instance, and why the Crown didn’t just withdraw the case in advance rather than wasting time and money.

Furthermore, I don’t understand why the reports from the courtroom itself state that the ‘crown offered no evidence‘ resulting in the charges being dismissed.

The two statements just seem contradictory.

Perhaps even more curiouser is why is the Attorney General releasing a press statement on this issue at all?

The Crown, that is, the DPP, should be answering any questions on this issue, about why they failed to proceed with this case, and the Police should be answering questions about why they pressed charges rather than just giving a caution in the first place.  Alternatively, the Governor, being responsible for both the Police and DPP, should be issuing a statement or responding to questions.

The Attorney General should not be speaking for the DPP or the Police on this issue – this is a breach of constitutional divisions of the legislature, judiciary and police.

This case has just opened the OBA up to a whole bunch of conspiracy theories of corruption and cover-up, all rather unnecessarily one would think.

We have a court case involving a Cabinet Minister’s son where first the evidence vanishes resulting in the charges being dismissed, with the defendant having one of the most expensive QC’s as his lawyer (Saul Froomkin) for what, really, was a minor charge, followed up by the Attorney General breaching his office’s remit to give an ‘explanation’ which could realistically be considered political spin.

Again, let me stress, I don’t think Mr Moniz should have been charged in the first place, on the basis of the cited charges, and instead just issued a caution in the first place.

Everything subsequent though, well, it just leaves more questions than answers, and makes a relatively minor case into a rather curious case indeed.

More questions than answers...

More questions than answers…

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4 thoughts on “The curious case of the missing evidence…

  1. Jonathan – the answer is very simple.

    “Offering no evidence” is a standard procedure that happens all the time. It is an easy and straightforward way for the Crown to abandon a prosecution without having to apply to the court for permission. It also gives finality to the defendant, as the result is that the Magistrate must dismiss the charge.

    The alternative is for the prosecution to apply to withdraw a charge, which takes more time, could result in the magistrate refusing the application to withdraw, and even if the charge is withdrawn it “lies on file” and could be brought again if there was the will or pressure to do so. In a politically sensitive case, offering no evidence is the best way to put the matter to bed.

    So it is nothing whatsoever to do with evidence going missing. If you want some background reading, this gives the background of the procedures http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/termination_of_proceedings/

    As for why it happened in this case. It’s crystal clear what happened:

    It is extremely unusual for somebody to appear in court on such a trivial charge. Everybody knows the current policy is not to prosecute for such small amounts but rather to caution. When was the last time any Bermudian was in court on possession of 2g?

    Which strongly suggests that the boy was being picked on, either because of who his dad is or for some other reason.

    Since first appearing in court, it appears that discussions have taken place between his attorney and the prosecution, who have been persuaded that it is not in the public interest to pursue the charge. This, again, is something that happens all the time. It was also the right thing to do, as the charge should never have been brought.

    Something has gone wrong here, but you have it completely the wrong way round. If anything needs investigating it is:

    1) Who made the decision to prosecute?; and
    2) Why?

    Don’t hold your breath in finding out the answers!!

  2. Hi Peter – thank you for the informative answer, it is much appreciated.

    As stated above, to me this shouldn’t have been a case in the first place; it should have just been a caution. And so you are right, it leads to questions about why it went to court in the first place – while you have quite usefully explained the actual court proceedings above.

    Another curious aspect of this case though is the apparent intervention of the AG. I don’t see why he’s taken it upon himself to release a press statement – it is outside of his remit.

    If anyone is to explain why the prosecution offered no evidence it should be the DPP – and not the AG.

    And if anyone is to explain why the issue went to court in the first place, rather than resulting simply in a caution, that should be (I’d assume) the Police – but not the AG.

    It’s that (and the other questions) which make what should have been a non-case into a curious case which leaves us with more answers than questions, in my opinion…

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