The US Embassy to the Eastern Caribbean recently donated some $100,000 worth of equipment to Saint Lucia’s Crown Prosecution Service. While expressing their appreciation on the occasion, Ministry of Justice personnel said the money would help mend what many have described as Saint Lucia’s “broken justice system”. In his turn, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet commended Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Daarsrean Greene, on his achievements, despite his several hurdles.
In 2013, the US State Department suspended all assistance to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force until there was a “credible judicial resolution” of the twelve deaths suspected to be extra-judicial killings by the police in 2010-2011.
DPP Greene considered the recent donation to be a sign of improvement in the relationship between the U.S. State Department and the government of Saint Lucia. He was nevertheless reluctant to say what progress had been made toward a resolution of the earlier-mentioned twelve homicides.
Instead, he offered the following: “This generous donation by the Embassy of the United States is vital to us and will complement our normal budget allocation. It will also improve our department’s productivity and capacity by reaffirming our overall mandate, which is to implement a comprehensive policy framework to enable the department to address crime in a coordinated, expeditious and focused manner.”
He added: “This equipment will enable us to effectively respond to the reasonable judicial expectations. We pledge our commitment to continue working closely with the U.S. Embassy.”
As for Margaret Pratt, recalling the murder of her husband, Roger, in Vieux Fort “one thousand days ago”, she hoped the donated computers would assist in bringing her husband’s killers to justice.
In January 2014 Roger Pratt was murdered while aboard his anchored yacht. Margaret is the only witness. At every opportunity she has expressed her disappointment with the local criminal justice system. She has undertaken online campaigns on all social media platforms in an effort to bring the case to justice. She says so far her pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Margaret recently revealed that a promised full trial was supposed to begin in March 2017, but turned to a voir dire hearing. She said she was never given an opportunity to attend a single hearing, not physically nor via video link.
She claims that communication between her and the DPP’s office is “almost non-existent”. She referred to an April 13, 2017 phone conversation with the DPP that gave her reason to finally hope for justice. Since then not much has happened.
As for her relationship with the last Saint Lucia High Commissioner in London, she said it ended most unpleasantly.
Margaret told the STAR that DPP Greene had not revealed the reasons for not dcommunicating, other than he had inherited a backlog of several cases and was doing his best to cope in rough circumstances. “The DPP told me that he was taking personal charge of the case and that he would review the detailed files over the Easter weekend . . . He informed me that he would be providing new indictments when the courts reconvened after the Easter break.
“Of course I want justice for Roger but I also think there’s some lessons from this case that could help others in my circumstances. The DPP provided helpful information that I had not been aware of. I really appreciate that and am awaiting his promised follow-up information.”
Finally on Friday 12 May 2017 a hearing occurred but the judge was not satisfied with alleged perpetrator Richie Kern’s fitness to plead, and further ordered a trial for 7 July, 2017. According to Margaret’s lawyer: “The learned judge ordered that Richie Kern be reevaluated and a further psychiatric report be prepared and served upon his attorney on or before 30 June, 2017. She noted that the previous three psychiatric reports for Richie Kern were unsatisfactory.” The hearing on March 17, 2017 had concluded similarly.
Although most of the news was relayed to Margaret by the Resident British High Commissioner, and her lawyer, and not much has been achieved, she is still grateful that the case is moving forward. Margaret’s campaign manager commented: “What is good about the very recent progress of the case will ultimately be good for Saint Lucia. There has been little development in the past three years until we achieved some publicity on the Island quite recently.”
The murder trial date is scheduled for 8 November, 2017.