A 78-year-old Tobago man who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly being part of a lynch mob and who, along with two other men tied up a suspected arsonist, will not face a new trial.
On Wednesday, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Vasheist Kokaram allowed the appeal of Carlston Lyne and agreed there will not be a new trial.
There were two other men convicted with him for the April 9, 2008, offence of malicious wounding, but one of them is currently in a coma while the other has since died, the judges were told.
At the appeal, Lyne’s attorney John Heath argued the magistrate wrongly exercised her discretion by refusing to grant an adjournment sought by defence counsel to call a witness – a police officer who allegedly gave Lyne the go-ahead to “bring in” the suspected arsonist – and time to prepare a closing address.
Heath said the magistrate limited herself to certain parameters in deciding not to grant the adjournment to give the defence time to bring its witness.
He pointed to the magistrate’s reasons that a matter can only be adjourned if the court needed to read the notes (of evidence) or check a point of law. Heath said if those were the parameters of the magistrate, the exercise of discretion was not done judicially.
“That shows an inflexibility.”
He also argued Lyne was robbed of a fair opportunity to be properly heard by the magistrate not granting an adjournment for him to “marshal the evidence and provide legal authorities” in a closing statement.
The State, represented by assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, did not resist the appeal, agreeing that the intended defence witness was an important one for the defence.
She urged the judges to consider where the trial was at that point after all three men gave evidence.
“Progress had been made in the matter… The (trial) time was not spent badly, and granting the adjournment would not be improper.”
She also said the witness the defence wanted to call, as a police officer, would have had to get permission to attend court and would have needed the authorisation to bring with him a certain book; presumably a station or pocket diary.
Dougdeen-Jaglal agreed that the denial to grant the requests for an adjournment was unreasonable.
In their ruling, Soo Hon said of the five grounds of appeal filed by Lyne, the first ground of the refusal to grant the adjournment being detrimental to a fair hearing, concerned them the most.
She pointed out that while the matter had come up for hearing 13 times and had been fixed for trial for five of those occasions within a year, it was “somewhat unfair” of the magistrate to deny Lyne the opportunity to get a summons for his witnesses while criticising him for not having the kind of evidence the police officer could have given.
“Taking all the factors into account the magistrate also said she would adjourn the matter to properly study the case but denied counsel the opportunity to properly prepare an address when the evidence closed.
“He may not have had a fair trial.”
Emphasising that trial attorneys must be better prepared, Soo Hon said the court felt constrained and also took into account that both Lyne and the State argued the same points, “agreeing with each other.”
It was alleged that Lyne and the two other men were part of a “lynch mob” and in a setting of “vigilante” justice tied up a man to take him to the police station in Roxborough.
It was the men’s defence that they were displaying community spirit by helping the police apprehend the suspected arsonist who was also said to be “mentally disturbed” and had been terrorising the village.