The government suffered another legal blow yesterday, as the Privy Council denied the permission to appeal former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Frank Smith’s acquittal on corruption charges.
The country’s highest court refused an appeal against Smith’s acquittal on the basis that “there is no risk that a serious miscarriage of justice has occurred in this case”.
Meanwhile, the former chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) has a pending malicious prosecution lawsuit against government in the case.
Prosecutors alleged that Smith had abused his position as PHA chairman for personal gain, when he allegedly demanded $60,000 from cleaning company owner Barbara Hanna from 2017 to 2018.
Hanna claimed that Smith helped her secure a $500,000 contract to clean the Critical Care Block at Princess Margaret Hospital — and demanded the payments to ensure that she kept it.
However, the prosecution’s case against Smith collapsed on February 1, 2019, after Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt found Hanna’s evidence unbelievable.
The Crown appealed the magistrate’s decision and asked the court to quash the acquittal and order a new trial.
Although conceding that the trial magistrate made some mistakes in her ruling, the Court of Appeal on August 28, 2019, dismissed the appeal as “unsustainable”.
The Court of Appeal said, “There is some merit to the appellant’s complaints about procedural missteps the chief magistrate may have made, but in our view, they did not impact the result of the case to any significant degree, as there was an abundance of examples of doubtful testimony from Mrs. Hanna, which impelled the chief magistrate to her eventual conclusion.”
In a statement yesterday, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis, QC, condemned the attorney general for allowing the case to proceed.
Davis said, “The eyes of the public must also be on the Attorney General Senator Carl Bethel, who allowed this case to go forward, when he must have known the state of the evidence. It gives rise to the charge of malicious prosecution.”
He continued, “I am saddened by the fact that while justice has been served in this case, what of other people in our system who do not have the resources to take the fight all the way to the Privy Council?”