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Cop wants new charge quashed

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

A policeman whose murder case has been dragging on for more than nine years is seeking a court order to quash a new indictment served on him this week.

Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith heard lengthy submissions yesterday from lawyers for the defence and the Crown and will give her ruling today in the Home Circuit Court.

Corporal Lancelot Webley was arrested and charged following an incident in November 2000 in which a man was fatally shot in Portmore, St Catherine. He is contending that the new indictment will prevent him from getting a fair trial and amounts to an abuse of process.

Webley's trial was set for Monday but had to be put off because he objected to the new indictment which was served on the defence yesterday. The new indictment charges him with the murder of a person unknown. He was previously charged, on an indictment dated July 2007, with the murder of John Spencer.

The prosecution is contending that it is having difficulty locating the person who identified the body of John Spencer.

Manipulation of the system

Defence lawyers George Soutar and Linda Wright argued that the indictment should be quashed because it amounted to manipulation of the system by the prosecution, which is trying to cure an incurable defect. Soutar stressed that if the prosecution is describing the deceased as unknown it is creating a deception, because the deceased is known as John Spencer.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Diahann Gordon-Harrison pointed out that the prosecution had no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual who was allegedly unlawfully killed was in fact John Spencer. She said it was because of that reason that the indictment was redrafted. She cited several authorities to show that the trial could proceed on that basis. She denied the claim that there was manipulation on the part of the Crown.

Webley's case was held up because, after the preliminary enquiry was completed in 2004, a fire at the Spanish Town Resident Magistrate's Court in St Catherine destroyed the notes. A file was reconstructed by the police two years after the fire. The case was adjourned without a date for a hearing. In 2006, Webley applied to have the matter relisted and that was done in 2007.