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ALP Six’ walks free after case is dismissed

Opposition Leader Lester Bird along with party chairman Gaston Browne, St Peter Member of Parliament Asot Michael, ALP St Paul representative Paul “Chet” Greene, General Secretary Mary Claire Hurst and ALP executive member Carlton Lake were jointly charged for inciting, organising and taking part in a march in breach of the Act.

Chief Magistrate Walsh threatened to throw out the case if the prosecutor was unable to offer a reasonable explanation about his absence on Monday.

After hearing from Inspector Albert Chastenet and Deputy Commissioner Henry Christian, Walsh told the six accused that they were free to go.

Speaking to OBSERVER media after the court’s decision, Paul “Chet” Greene said that this outcome was expected and added that all the evidence was heard the outcome would be the same.

Greene, who called the charges political, said the law could once again be trusted and posited that he is glad to have the matter behind him. He said that it is unfortunate that the charges were brought against them.

“Well, I have long reasoned that there was never a case against us. The evidence that came out in trial also supported our belief and thinking that this was just an exercise laced with political vendetta …

“The matter being thrown out today is nothing short of what we expected,” Greene said.

Hurst denied receiving the correspondence from Commissioner of Police Vere Browne notifying the party that the High Street route they applied for had been denied, and instead the Long Street route given.

Hurst said that the letter came to her office two weeks after the March 10 march.  She too is happy that the matter is now behind her.

“I am elated and it was wearing on me coming to the court and now I am happy.  Quite frankly I don’t think I had any reason to be here to begin with. But it has been over a year that we have been going back and forth with this case.

“We had a date that was stipulated and the prosecutor did not show up and she (the magistrate) needed a reasonable explanation and she did not get it today, and she felt that the court was disrespected and she decided to let us go. She was very thorough,” Hurst told OBSERVER Media.

Inspector Albert Chastenet, who failed to show up to court on Monday, told the court that he was informed by Deputy Commissioner Henry Christian that he should be in court sometime after noon.

Chastenet said that on August 27 when the matter was last heard he was under the impression that it was adjourned to October 1 and 2.

He said when he made inquiries on those days he was told that Walsh was not on island and therefore he proceeded on his vacation, which he earlier informed the court about.

The deputy commissioner was summoned to the court and he said that after being told by Commissioner Vere Browne after 10am to remind Chastenet about the case, he made several phone calls to the inspector’s telephone. All went unanswered.

Christian said he later went to Chastenet’s home about 1:26 pm and reminded him of the case.

The deputy commissioner, when asked what about the outcome of a case if the prosecutor does not have his act together, admitted it could be adjourned or struck out.

Walsh said she was not satisfied with the explanation despite defence attorney John Fuller agreeing that “things happen”.

The chief magistrate said that Chastenet and, by extension, the police were disrespectful.

“All the defendants were here. I am not accepting that slackness of the police. Up to now I don’t think I got a reasonable explanation.

“I called the commissioner myself about quarter to 9am to tell him to remind Chastenet about the case. I will never stand for any disrespect of the court. The commissioner seems not to be able to control his officers. The matter is dismissed…you are free to go,” Walsh said.

The prosecution had planned to call one final witness, the investigating officer.

Bird, Browne, Michael, Greene, Hurst and Lake were alleged to have led several hundred marchers up Long Street during a “White March” last year.

A permit dated February 11, 2011, granted on behalf of the ALP by Commissioner Browne, gave permission to the party to hold the march and take a course up Long Street.  The march moved off from Michael’s Mount and upon reaching the vicinity of High Street allegedly bolted through a police barricade.

The riot squad was called out but later withdrawn. The procession culminated at the Dredgers Playing Field.

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