Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Cop loses appeal but court cites bail extension blunder

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2023 | 12:26 AMBarbara Gayle/Contributor

In striking out an appeal last week on the basis that it was filed out of time, the Court of Appeal empathised with Detective Constable Oneil Barrett and his lawyer for the judicial blunder of having his bail extended after he was sentenced.

Barrett was convicted in January 2020 in the St Catherine Parish Court of attempting to pervert the course of justice and was fined $150,000 or three months’ imprisonment.

He made several appearances before different judges until the fine was paid on November 30, 2020. The written notice of appeal was filed on December 17, 2020, in the St Catherine Parish Court and the appeal was heard on March 6 last year.

The Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Paulette Williams, Vivienne Harris, and Kissock Laing (acting), said in the written judgment that it was beyond debate that a defendant who intends to appeal the conviction or sentence from a Parish Court either give verbal notice of appeal during the sitting when the judgment is delivered or file a written notice of appeal with the clerk of the courts for the parish within 14 days of the date of the delivery of judgment.

It was the court’s finding that the parish judge erred when she imposed the fine and then extended Barrett’s bail to return to court to pay.

“Before concluding on this issue, we also thought it was fitting that we should remind trial judges that once a judge imposes sentence, the matter is at an end and he or she is functus official. The principle ought to be known by now,” the court ruled.

While preparing the judgment, the court said it found certain anomalies and requested the record from the parish court.

The records disclosed that the fine was not paid when Barrett appeared in court on November 27, 2020, and he was remanded.

The court said that when the fine was paid three days later, it was endorsed on the information that Barrett had his bail restored and extended to December 21, 2020. The court said Barrett’s matter was set before different judges who extended his bail to return to court on several occasions. There was therefore no continuity before the judge who tried the case and that may have contributed to the confusion regarding the date the case was finally disposed of, the court said.

The court found that the blunder was further exacerbated when, on December 21, 2020, the fine seemed to have been “reimposed” with a notation on the court sheet that it was previously paid.

The Court of Appeal said the outcome of the case demonstrated the necessity for attorneys-at-law and litigants to familarise themselves with the relevant provisions of the Judicature (Parish Courts) Act concerning criminal appeals.

“It also underscores for trial judges, whether of the Parish or Supreme courts, to strictly adhere to the relevant law and procedure when exercising their discretion to allow or extend time to pay a fine,” the court said.

Barrett was assigned, along with another cop, to investigate the murder of recording artiste Dacia McCalla, also known as ‘Nanny Mystic’. The entertainer was shot and killed on November 15, 2016, in Jericho district, Linstead, St Catherine.

A potential witness was interviewed but purportedly demanded $30,000 to sign the statement, Barrett said.

Barrett reportedly had several conversations on WhatsApp with an overseas-based sister of the deceased about the payment to the witness.

The deceased’s sister reported the matter to the police and Barrett was arrested and charged in October 2018. The contents of the messages were captured in a digital forensic report and admitted into evidence.