Symister explains reasons behind dismissal of ‘passport case,’ but believes acting DPP has the will to have it retried

Attorney-at-law Leon Chaku Symister has attempted to clear the air
on the decision taken by High Court Justice Tunde Bakre, who
quashed the three-count indictment against Ray John and Shakema
Charles, the pair accused in the infamous passport case, on Tuesday,
March 5.

Justice Bakre ruled in favour of the defence, based on no-case
submissions from Hugh Marshall, Jr. and Michael Archibald, who
contended that two of the indictments could not be tried by a judge
The judge agreed, and the ruling initially set for Friday, March 8,
was brought forward and the court’s decision given.

Symister says he was not surprised by the judge’s decision based on
the reasons given.
However, he notes that the decision does not mean John and Charles
have been found not guilty and vindicated or absolved of the
Neither is the attorney surprised that members of the public have
been reacting angrily to the decision, since they might not be
familiar with the justice system.

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shannon Jones-Gittens
has promised to re-try the matter during the next sitting of the
Criminal Assizes.

However, many people are skeptical that this will actually be done.
But not Symister: He believes this DPP will have the drive to put the
case back in.

What concerns him, however, is whether she will face political
interference, knowing John’s close connections to members of the
ruling administration.
Reportedly, John has been referred to as “the strongman” for the
Antigua Labour Party and its politicians.

Based on changes to the legislation, Symister says, accused persons
do not always have a choice on how their cases are tried, since some
matters, by law, must be tried by a judge alone.
He says there is a list that details which offences must be tried by a
judge alone; and if an offence is not listed, then a judge cannot hear
it by himself, and it has to go before a jury.
According to the attorney, the conspiracy charge that both John and
Charles face is not listed on the schedule of offences that must be
tried by a judge alone. Therefore, Justice Bakre had no authority to
hear the facts of the case related to that indictment.

Attorney-at-law Leon Chaku Symister.
Symister notes, too, that, inadvertently, the conspiracy offence could
have been left off the list when it was prepared and the Bill went to
The redeeming thing, in this instance, is that the case against John
and Charles can be re-filed, Symister says, adding that the right and
just thing to be done is for the prosecution to have the matter