Mon | Oct 26, 2020

Judge reversed Hylton’s conviction, sentence - Case for breach of anti-corruption law lost in the system awaiting retrial

Published:Sunday | August 16, 2020 | 12:29 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Anthony Hylton
Anthony Hylton

Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western Anthony Hylton had both his conviction and sentence for two breaches of Jamaica’s anti-corruption law reversed by a judge in 2011, court documents have revealed.

Just over three years after the reversal, Hylton, who by then was minister of industry, investment and commerce, had both charges dismissed after prosecutors offered no evidence against him, according to the documents, copies of which were recently obtained by The Sunday Gleaner.

Further, a third charge against the veteran lawmaker, also for an alleged breach of the since-repealed Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act, appears to have been lost in the parish court system for the last five years.

The case, which was first placed before the then Kingston and St Andrew Resident Magistrate Court in 2012, was last mentioned in court on March 13, 2015, court records show.

“In respect of [case number redacted], nolle prosequi entered, matter to commence de novo,” read the notation made on the court file on March 13, 2015, meaning prosecutors were abandoning the current matter and the case would start over.

A footnote on the file indicating that the case be transferred to courtroom number three was struck out and insiders believe that could be the source of the “confusion”.

“Which courtroom it goes to is set by the court. So, it seems it fell through the cracks. The matter is still alive; it has not been disposed of,” one insider suggested.

“They checked the court three book and it was not listed. So, it seemed to have been an oversight on the part of the court. But technically, the matter has not been dealt with, so summons should have to be reissued for the matter to be brought back before the court,” the insider added.

Up to press time, there was no response from the Court Administration Division to queries made last Wednesday by The Sunday Gleaner regarding the status of the 2012 case filed against Hylton.

Numerous calls to Hylton’s cell phone went unanswered.

Paula Llewellyn, QC, director of public prosecutions (DPP), declined comment, explaining that she was unable to access the case file to ascertain all the facts because of ongoing renovation work at her downtown Kingston offices.

“Some of our older files are being kept in a vault off-site,” she said.

Llewellyn revealed, too, that a search for the case file at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court came up empty.

“They have said that they don’t have any file related to Mr Hylton,” she disclosed.

The revelations come amid a renewed push by civil society groups to get citizens to hold lawmakers and other public officials accountable for breaches of the Integrity Commission Act, the anti-corruption legislation that replaced the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act.

Parliamentarians, like other public officials, are required, each year, to submit statutory declarations of their income, assets and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, the agency established to police the legislation.

Anti-corruption watchdog groups have long maintained that statutory declarations help to determine whether public officials are using their positions to illegally enrich themselves.

... Other parliamentarians charged; reversal not unusual, says attorney

In the first two cases against Hylton, the presumptive People’s National Party (PNP) candidate for St Andrew Western in the September 3 general election, he was among five parliamentarians hauled before the court on November 18, 2011 for alleged breaches of the anti-corruption law, records show.

Other parliamentarians in court that day on similar charges were the PNP’s Natalie Neita, former sports minister; Derrick Kellier, former agriculture minister; Noel Arscott, former local government minister; Colin Fagan, MP for St Catherine South; and the Jamaica Labour Party’s Tarn Peralto and Michael Stern.

Arscott, the outgoing Clarendon South West MP, was charged with six counts.

Court records show that guilty pleas were entered for Hylton, Arscott, Fagan, Peralto and Stern on one count of breaching the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act. They were each sentenced to a fine of $10,000 by then Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey.

Neita and Kellier had their cases rescheduled, while Arscott had five counts withdrawn by prosecutors.

However, in Hylton’s case, a line was drawn through his conviction and sentence, which also included an option of 30 days in prison if the fine was not paid. The trial was set for January 17, 2012.

The trial crawled through the court system until March 6, 2015, when prosecutors threw in the towel.

“No further evidence is offered by the Crown in these proceedings. Discharged on both information (counts),” read a notation on the court file.

“The Crown indicates that the trial is a nullity.”

According to an attorney with knowledge of the case, the guilty plea entered on Hylton’s behalf in November 2011 was done by another lawyer while the St Andrew Western MP was on his way to court.

“When Mr Hylton got to court and learnt of the guilty plea, he immediately indicated that he gave no instructions to that effect,” said the attorney, explaining the basis on which both the convictions and sentences were reversed.

Reversing a conviction and sentence, one senior attorney told The Sunday Gleaner, is not unusual.

“As long as the judge has new information and has not adjourned for the day, it can be done,” said the senior attorney.

The charges against the former industry, investment and commerce minister stem from accusations by the then Corruption Prevention Commission that his 2010 statutory declaration was not filed in the time allowed by law; that he failed to disclose that he was the sole director in a private development company; and failed, when requested, to provide financial statements for the company.

In addition, he was accused of failing to furnish the commission with statements for an overseas bank account held by his wife.