Fri | Jan 22, 2021

REJECTED! - Reid, Pinnock suffer third loss in legal battle to quash criminal charges

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2020 | 12:15 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Ruel Reid (foreground) and Fritz Pinnock bail hearing at the Corporate Area Parish Court.
Ruel Reid (foreground) and Fritz Pinnock bail hearing at the Corporate Area Parish Court.

Hugh Wildman, the attorney-at-law representing resigned Education Minister Ruel Reid and Caribbean Maritime University President Professor Fritz Pinnock, has vowed to take his clients’ case to UK-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, after the Court of Appeal yesterday denied their application to challenge a Supreme Court ruling.

“We going to the Privy Council,” Wildman told The Gleaner yesterday in a 23-second telephone interview mere hours after Jamaica’s appellate court made the ruling, dealing a heavy blow to the men whose application for leave for judicial review has twice been rejected by the Supreme Court within the last four months.

In a unanimous ruling handed down yesterday, a Court of Appeal panel of judges comprising President Dennis Morrison and Justices Hilary Phillips and Nicole Simmons rejected the application, finding that there is an alternative remedy for their case in the Parish Court, where the matter is currently being managed.

“The Parish Courts in Jamaica have extensive jurisdiction, and Parish Court judges are called upon to adjudicate upon very complex and important criminal and other matters.

An argument could not be sustained that the Parish Court is an inferior court lacking the requisite competence to deal with issues pertaining to statutory interpretation or any allegation of abuse of the court’s process,” said Phillips, who authored the majority of the 22-page judgment.

Morrison and Simmons adopted Phillips’ reasoning.

As it related to whether or not there was need for the High Court’s intervention, Phillips said, “As indicated, there is absolutely no reason why the Parish Court could not deal with any claim for abuse of process, in the circumstances of this case, arising out of the alleged unlawful arrest, charge and prosecution of the applicants as a result of specific interpretations of certain provisions of FIDA (Financial Investigations Division Act) and other relevant statutes.”

The men in February renewed their application for judicial review in accordance with the Supreme Court’s Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 2002, after their initial application was rejected by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes in December last year.

But the Full Court panel comprising Supreme Court judges Justices David Batts, Chester Stamp and Stephane Jackson-Haisley on March 2 denied the application.

Phillips noted that under the CPR, applicants must state whether an alternative form of redress exists, and if so, why judicial review is more appropriate or why the alternative has not been pursued.

She said that because this was not done by the men, “the applicants would have failed in their attempt to persuade the court that their appeal would have a real chance of success.”

Consequently, the application for stay of the criminal proceedings in the Parish Court pending the determination of the application for permission to appeal the decision of the Full Court was also refused.

The men have since last December been seeking to quash criminal charges laid against them by the Financial Investigations Division (FID).

Year-long corruption probe

The charges were last October laid against Reid; his wife Sharen; their daughter Sharelle as well as Pinnock and Brown’s Town Division Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence, after they were arrested following a year-long corruption probe into the education ministry and CMU.

Reid and Pinnock contended that the FID was not empowered by law to bring the charges against them and therefore acted illegally.

They further argued that the FID is purely an investigative body and does not have the legal authority to bring criminals charges or obtain a fiat from the director of public prosecutions to prosecute them.

However, Richard Small, the attorney who represented the FID, maintained that the police personnel acted lawfully.

Reid, Pinnock and their co-accused are scheduled to appear in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on April 8, where an update of the file is expected to be given.