NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt did nothing wrong when she criticized Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands and National Security Minister Marvin Dames for their involvement in the Frank Smith bribery and extortion trial, according to Smith’s attorney, Keith Knight, QC.
On Tuesday, Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskins asserted that the chief magistrate was out of line for scolding the ministers during her ruling back in February.
Ferguson-Pratt acquitted and discharged Smith after finding fault with numerous “inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” in the Crown’s case.
Smith was accused of extorting $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 the Princess Margaret Hospital.
Ferguson-Pratt also condemned both Dr. Sands and Dames for the “egregious” way in which they interacted with Mrs. Hanna prior to a police investigation into her claims, saying that their conduct gave the appearance of a “political favour to a curious bystander.”
Knight said the chief magistrate exercised great care when she came to her decision and while her ruling was not perfect, it surpassed the bar where excellence begins.
He said Ferguson-Pratt should be congratulated for the decision she handed down.
He said the magistrate had to take into consideration the fact that Barbara Hanna donated to
Dr. Sands’ campaign, was in constant contact with him before and after the general election, and was awarded a contract by him worth $1.8 million without board approval.
Ferguson-Pratt also questioned the conduct of Dames after meeting with Hanna at his constituency office instead of directing his colleague to refer the complaint to the commissioner of police. She said it was “unorthodox, to say the least”.
Knight also said Ferguson-Pratt had to also take into consideration the fact that Hanna, unprovoked, told the court she felt like she was being used. And while Knight admitted that she never said who was using her, she was only in contact with Dr. Sands and Dames.
He said Pratt’s assessment that Hanna was being controlled by puppeteers was reasonable.
He also said the chief justice was right to label it unusual that Hanna would call Smith and tell him “be careful, they are out to get you” if she was being extorted by him.
Knight also argued that the evidence in the trial is circumstantial at best and only consisted of the call logs, which were thrown out due to inconsistencies and the bank records which were incomplete and proved nothing.