Ex Minister of State and current Area Representative for Cayo North East Hon. Elvin Penner appeared in court today before Magistrate Aretha Ford for the second day for disclosure of evidence for the Prosecution of Elvin Penner.
On February 28th, 2014, Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA filed a private prosecution against the Area Representative for his involvement in what has been dubbed the Elvin Penner passport scandal.
Penner first appeared before the court on March 27th 2014, and, if you recall the fiasco, appeared fortified by a mass of political supporters attempting to barricade the media. Notably that wasn’t the case today.
However, he strategically slipped passed the media and inside the court house by himself while all the cameras were busy shooting a black Vaux Wagon pick up which he came in the last time.
Inside the court house, Attorney Kareem Musa, acting on behalf of COLA, appealed for an adjournment as he claimed he was not prepared to give full disclosure of the evidence.
For some time now, COLA and their attorney have been complaining that their attempts to gather the information for the prosecution of Elvin Penner have been thwarted for whatever reason. The Auditor General refused to provide them with information, the Commissioner of Police did not respond to their request, and the DPP who had agreed to help them said the files were with the Commissioner of Police.
There was some back and forth with that earlier this month with the Compol claiming he didn’t have it.
However he finally said that he does have it but that because the investigation was still ongoing he could not relinquish the files.
Today Attorney Kareem Musa produced what he called partial disclosure of the evidence and appealed that the case be adjourned.
Ellis Arnold, defense attorney for Area Representative Elvin Penner, objected to this request as he claimed that the whole point of filing a case is that they have the evidence at hand.
He then formally objected to the adjournment claiming that what attorney Kareem Musa presented today contained no substantial evidence and should the case continue it would be (what he dubbed as) “An abuse of legal procedure.”
Attorney Kareem Musa rebutted saying that it is not for the defence attorney to determine the weight of the evidence presented today and that the evidence was not up for trial at this stage as he explained
“Senior Counsel, Mr. Arnold made a submission that the matter be struck out at this stage, but I indicated to the learning magistrate that today was not a day for trial. In fact, it is merely the disclosure date. So, such a submission can only come once the evidence has been led, meaning that our witnesses have taken the stand, and in fact, they or the magistrate have determined that there is not sufficient evidence for the matter to go on. This is not the stage for that. So, I think that it was a premature attempt on the part of the defendant”.
Magistrate Aretha Ford was of the same opinion and as such granted the prosecutors one final adjournment for the full disclosure of evidence which is to be on June 26th, 2014.
Outside the court we approached Hon. Elvin Penner for an interview
Attorney Kareem Musa: “Well, there is provision under the Section 30 of the Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act; it provides for the summoning of witnesses, and there are several witnesses that have gone in the media who have disclosed that they have relevant material including the Prime Minister, including the Hon. Godwin Hulse, including the Commissioner of Police who has the actual file. So, I think that will be the next step for COLA, come the 23 or the 26th June. We will have to apply to summon those witnesses”.
Attorney Kareem Musa: “I won’t discuss the merits or demerits of our disclosure at this stage because that is for the magistrate to determine and I don’t want to prejudice our case , but that is his opinion; I have a different opinion from him”.
Reporter: “Have you verified if the actual passport has arrived in the country?”
Attorney Kareem Musa: “Form what we heard, it has not, and it was supposed to come today’s date, but let’s just see”.
COLA and their attorney were granted one month to gather the evidence they have been seeking for the last 3 to 4 months. However, should they not get the file, attorney Kareem Musa says they will proceed with the summoning of witnesses like the Prime Minister himself:
“We are thankful that our attorney has gotten us one more adjournment date where even though we have seen the system has done it sa best to frustrate this process; even though it was a suggestion of the Prime Minister, we can clearly see that every move that COLA has made, that every single department in the government, whether they are directly attached or appeared to be independent, have tried to. frustrate the process, We are hoping that at some point that the Police Commissioner and the Department will return the file to the DPP for her to decide to give us. She has made it very clear that she does not to us holding the file. It is a very difficult process in which we have embarked, but we will not allow ourselves to be dismayed and continue to charge on. I think that today it was another monument marked in the history of Belize and we look forward for the next court date”.
It is a very small win for COLA, nevertheless a monumental step say COLA’s president Giovanni Brackett. The next court date is scheduled for the 26th of June.