Govt. applies for leave to appeal decision to Privy Council
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Court of Appeal yesterday tossed out the government’s application for former member of Parliament Frank Smith to be retried on bribery and extortion allegations and upheld Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson Pratt’s ruling that Smith has no case to answer.
In court, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Neil Braithwaite told the appellate court that the Office of the Attorney General will file for leave to appeal the ruling before the Privy Council.
The justices indicated that they had a fundamental issue with Braithwaite giving notice to appeal the decision, as there was an assumption that their decision was wrong, without having read their ruling.
Smith walked away from the Court of Appeal yesterday flanked by his family and supporters, including former Prime Minster Perry Christie and Bishop Neil Ellis.
Smith thanked God and his family for getting him through what he called a “tough time”.
“I also want to thank the people who participated in the process where the magistrate, judge, justice; those people there was a lot of pressure all around in respect to this case from the public and elsewhere,” he said. “I want to thank the people who watched and recognized when injustices are being done and spoke out and let their feelings be known.”
In February, Ferguson-Pratt acquitted Smith on allegations that he extorted $60,000 from Public Hospitals Authority contractor Barbara Hanna, after he allegedly assisted her in getting a half-million-dollar contract to clean the Critical Care Block at Princess Margaret Hospital.
The government immediately appealed the decision.
In a written ruling, the COA said it was satisfied that the chief magistrate did not err when she questioned Barbara Hanna’s reliability as a witness, given that the prosecution’s only incriminating evidence came from Hanna’s testimony.
The appellate court noted that while there was some merit to the prosecution’s complaints about procedural missteps by the chief magistrate, it did not impact the result of the case to a significant degree, as there was an abundance of examples of doubtful testimony from Hanna.
Therefore, the Court of Appeal found the government’s appeal unsustainable and dismissed it.
Opposition Leader Phillip Brave Davis said yesterday’s ruling proved that the case was never about justice and was driven by politics.
“The fact the DPP can get up in front of the court ad be spanked by the court to say they want a date for an application to appeal the ruling to the Privy Council that in itself is pure politics,” Davis said. “And as the lawyer was reminded, it was inappropriate for him to take that application at that time.”