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CJ denies extra time, DPP has to present SIPT succession plan by March 1 or trial is over

#TurksandCaicos, February 16, 2021 – The historic nature of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team trial has made advancing in the major case one for deep consideration, in light of the sudden passing of Justice Paul Harrison there is a dilemma about how the seven-year-old trial will progress as Harrison, was both judge and jury.

Lead prosecutor in the SIPT case, Andrew Mitchell, QC appeared in person at the sitting Monday morning which was held at the SIPT courtroom in Providenciales.

Mitchell, to onlookers in the court and those tuned in via video link, seemed to struggle with a convincing reason why he and the Director of Public Prosecutions should be given more time to convey the future of the trial. 

The session ended with the Chief Justice firmly committing the Prosecution to a 14-day re-appearance when the succession plan will either be presented or the case will be struck.

Bail for the eight defendants was also extended.

Chief Justice Mabel Agyeman now presides over the controversial government corruption matter and rejected the request for more time for the DPP to establish the way forward in the Crown vs Michael Misick and others.

Mitchell tried to secure 21-days in order for Eugene Otuonye, QC, Director of the Public Prosecutions Office to engineer the logistics for continuity of the trial, which is notoriously known as the most high profile, high cost trial in TCI history.

Expenditure over the years – in a conservative estimate –  have come in at well over a $110 million dollars. The judicial process which brought criminal and civil charges against as many as 11 individuals, but is now dwindled to eight islanders, has long worn out its local welcome.

Residents, who in 2008 were eager to have Michael Misick and his so called “cronies” face justice, are now despondent. 

The trial is seen by many as nothing more than a wasted effort which has made lawyers in the case filthy rich; and proven a travesty of justice with the TCI public purse, ravaged by the bills for luxury housing, high cost security, a renovation for a special courthouse and expensive attorney fees, including those for the defense teams.

The Special Investigation and Prosecution Team trial has been stymied by a string of pre-trial legal arguments spanning 2014 through to 2016.

Helen Garlick, the original lead prosecutor hired in 2009 vacated the post in 2017.

The proceedings were further waylaid by natural disasters including hurricanes Irma and Maria and most recently the Coronavirus Pandemic; which froze activity at the tailor-made court room for the bulk of 2020.

Proceedings reconvened in January 2021 with a plea deal approved for Lillian Boyce; now a freed defendant who is ordered by the court to pay a one million dollar fine in a suspended sentence. Some $700k was delivered up front.

It has been one week since the death of the retired president of the Jamaica Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Harrison, who had also come under fire in the early days of the process. 

Harrison’s age and stamina were called into question by the embattled former premier Michael Misick.  

Nonetheless, the Justice remained on after being hired in 2014 to preside over the trial which would for the first time in Turks and Caicos function without a jury.

The celebrated Paul Harrison passed away in his native Jamaica on Sunday February 7, 2021 after a short bout with illness and at the age of 83. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has the constitutional duty to determine if and how the matter will proceed.

The Chief Justice has made it clear however that if there is no determination by the DPP by March 1, 2021 when court is scheduled to reconvene; she is prepared to strike the matter which would end the trial.

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