After a nearly three-month-long trial, police officer Shawn Henry walked out of High Court a free man on Friday.
Mr. Henry, who was accused of conspiracy to steal, received a formal “not guilty” verdict by the jury on Friday at the direction of Justice Rajiv Prasad.
“We have been dealing with certain issues, and as a result I have to give you certain directions,” Mr. Prasad told the jury.
In addition to delivering a formal not guilty verdict for Mr. Henry, the jury was directed to deliver the same verdict to officer Simon Power for the charge of acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of criminal conduct.
Now, Mr. Power and officer Pamphill Prevost stand trial for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to steal.
A Long Trial
In January, all three officers were charged with conspiracy to steal in connection with large sums of cash that allegedly went missing during police operations between 2012 and 2014, according to the prosecution.
Mr. Power was also charged with acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of criminal conduct — the charge that he no longer faces — and Messrs. Prevost and Power were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
“I was told it would be the longest trial in BVI history,” Mr. Prasad told the jury, explaining that most trials last two or three weeks.
He spoke to the jury at length on Friday.
“Here, everybody has an opinion; everybody know what to tell you. But pay attention to what’s said in that box,” he said, pointing at the witness stand.
Because of complications during the trial, Mr. Prasad explained, he saw the need to direct the jurors to deliver the not guilty verdicts.
Lack of evidence
Mr. Prasad’s “not guilty” directions came from his conclusion that the evidence provided by the prosecution was not sufficient to charge Messrs. Henry or Power for the specific counts.
“The Crown has to prove their case,” Mr. Prasad said.“You have to prove it to the point where you are sure beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Turning to Mr. Henry, he added, “You have no other matters before the court. You are invited to leave.”
With that, Mr. Henry left the room, and his defence attorney, Ian Wilkinson, thanked Mr. Prasad.
“I wish most judges, if not all judges, were as gracious as you are,” he said. “As important as it is to be bright and brilliant, it’s just as important to be fair and courteous.”
Mr. Wilkinson, a defence attorney from Jamaica, said he’s excited and relieved for his client.
Outside of the courtroom, when asked why his client won the case, he responded, “When the prosecution is absolutely weak, then the judge throws out the case.”
He added, “Mr. Henry won his case because there was no evidence against Mr. Henry of any wrongdoing.”
With the Crown having presented its case, the defendants had the opportunity to present theirs or remain silent.
“There is no obligation on the accused to say anything,” Mr. Prasad told the jury. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but if the accused chooses to stay silent, that is their constitutional right.”
Mr. Prevost opted to give evidence and faced cross-examination by the Crown this week while Mr. Power chose to remain silent. Under oath, Mr. Prevost answered questions regarding a 2012 incident when three suspects were arrested in Cane Garden Bay.
The Crown argued that a bag of money was taken from the scene to the police station. Asked if he left the station with the bag and crossed the road, Mr. Prevost responded, “That never happened.”
“Did you agree to steal any money with the concurrence of Mr. Power?” asked Crown Counsel John Black.
Mr. Prevost turned toward Mr. Prasad and replied, “No, your Honour.”
“Did you in fact take any money?” Mr. Black pressed.
Again, Mr. Prevost responded, “No, your Honour.”
Yesterday both the prosecution and the defence delivered addresses to the jury. Mr. Black went first, taking jurors through five incidents that were part of the prosecution’s case.
“It seems a very long time since January, when I stood up to open the case,” he said.
He then explained to the jury two different kinds of evidence that affect the case: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. He encouraged jurors to put the circumstantial evidence together and come to their own conclusions.
The evidence, he said, included photographs of bunches of money that were taken first at a crime scene and then at the police station. The Crown argued that the two sets of photos suggested that less money was present at the station than at the crime scene.
In this manner, the Crown took the jury through five incidents of allegedly missing money before Defence Attorney Patrick Thompson delivered his address.
Mr. Thompson also spoke about each of the five incidents. “Pick sense out of the non-sense,” he urged jurors. “What does or doesn’t make sense?” He added that the jurors should pay careful attention to details and judge for themselves whether or not they believe in the Crown’s key witnesses.
“What does this witness have to gain from lying? Is he a credible witness? Is he somebody you could have faith in? Somebody you can believe?” he asked.
Mr. Thompson specifically pointed out discrepancies in the testimonies of Sergeant Royston De Silva and former police officer Michael Isles, describing their collective testimonies as “loud voices without harmony, just making a bunch of noise.”