Chief Justice Bryan Sykes on Wednesday blasted the prosecution for what he said has been the lack of adequate pre-trial preparation in relation to the cases against alleged members of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang, resulting in repeated adjournments of the proceedings.
The trial, which was on a one-week break, was expected to resume in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, but prosecutors made an application seeking a further two-week adjournment of the case.
A total of 33 persons, including reputed leader of the gang, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan, have been on trial since September last year for a raft of criminal offences, including murder, but the trial has been plagued by multiple delays.
Last week’s adjournment for seven days was to accommodate the cyber analysis of secretly recorded cell phone conversations between alleged gangsters which were recorded on three cell phones by a former gangster-turned-state-witness.
The prosecution also requested more time to assess the Communication Forensics and Cybercrime Division’s (CFCD) report which was presented to them last Tuesday.
The report outlines how data was extracted from the cell phones and sent to the cyber forensic laboratory for examination.
But when the trial was expected to get under way on Wednesday morning, prosecutors rose to request a two-week delay of the keenly-watched trial.
In making the call, prosecutors disclosed that they had more than 50,000 data files to review.
At that juncture, defence attorneys rebutted the request, including pointing out that two weeks would not be enough time to review the thousands of files once disclosure is made by the prosecution.
Sykes, in assessing the request, indicated that the Hilary session of the Home Circuit Court is to end in a matter of weeks.
He then ruled that the trial will be adjourned for seven weeks, and resume on May 2.
But Sykes lambasted the prosecutors for their failure to ensure that all files relative to the case were in their possession and were disclosed to the defence before the trial began last year.
He elaborated that, “For cases of this nature, significant work has to be done before it comes to court.
“It can’t be that we take it here and try to complete the work after,” he stated.
Sykes said the situation with the One Don trial now highlights the need for special gang courts.
A similar call was made by the judge earlier this year.
In his recent appeal for such courts, the chief jurist noted that jury trials are likely to resume next term, but many of those trials may have to be delayed due to the ongoing gang trial, which has multiple accused persons who are accommodated in two of the main criminal courtrooms at the Supreme Court.
Sykes lamented that the Supreme Court was not made to accommodate such large trials as that of the number of persons now on trial in the alleged One Don breakaway group matter.
The judge noted too, that the defence will require additional time to review the data files, and engage in discussions with their clients on the way forward.
He said this could possible result in additional witnesses being required to testify in court, which could result in them giving statements to the police.
Those statements, the judge said, would then have to be reviewed by the defence.
According to Sykes, there is also the likelihood that some defendants could be freed after the prosecution discloses the evidence it has to the defence attorneys.
In light of the myriad of challenges ahead for the trial, the chief justice apologised to the accused persons for the delays.
Bryan and 31 other men and one woman, are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act), 2014, better known as the anti-gang legislation, on an indictment with 25 counts.
They have been charged with multiple offences, including being part of a criminal organisation, illegal possession of firearm, illegal possession of ammunition, facilitating conspiracy to murder, and facilitating arson.
The offences were allegedly committed between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2019, in St Catherine.