With a heavy camera in my weak-handled handbag, along with a notebook and pen, and my phone silenced from home, I ventured to what I thought would have been my first High Court sitting as a reporter. Working with STAR Publishing has brought me to many wonderful places and equally presented me with saddening stories. The most frustrating one of recent has been the case of Roger Pratt. A few months ago I made acquaintance with his widow, Margaret Pratt, who only outlives him because they sailed to Saint Lucia together on retirement.
Roger Pratt was murdered on January 17, 2014 aboard Magnetic Attraction, the vessel they purchased for the unknowingly, ill-fated trip. That night, they heard sounds above their heads soon after they settled in for bed. Roger went out to investigate, to find that four masked men were searching for money, and both Roger and Margaret were pounded repeatedly in the process. Roger was tipped overboard (after or from a blow), when one of the robbers shouted something in patois, and they fled, leaving Margaret, injured, to call for help.
Police and nearby yachters rushed to assist Margaret’s Mayday call. Evidence was collected and Roger’s body was retrieved from the water – lifeless. Her holiday, and life as she knew it, was cut short as Margaret learnt, holding Roger’s cold hand in the local ambulance, that he was forever gone.
Four suspects were brought to court on February 25, 2014 all confessing to murder and robbery.
Almost four years later, as informed by Margaret, I went to what she imagined to be the trial of Richie Kern, Jeromine Jones, Kevin Devaux and Fanis Joseph, each for either robbery, causing death or murder.
Margaret was unable to attend because Director of Public Prosecutions, Daarsrean Greene – who promised to take up the case personally – has not communicated with Mrs. Pratt for months. In this case, everything happens for a reason, and Margaret did not travel to Saint Lucia from the United Kingdom. The murder trial did not occur on November 8, 2017 as ordered on May 12, 2017, partly due to the psychiatric report of Richie Kern’s fitness to plead still being unavailable. Margaret claims, “I think this has been pending since February 2017 at least.”
On May 12, 2017, which was the scheduled date of a voire dire hearing, the judge deemed the three available psychiatric reports for Richie Kern as unsatisfactory. The DPP’s application for indictment to be served was refused by the judge until a satisfactory report was submitted on July 7, 2017. By then a witness describes the court proceeding as a “disaster”. The psychologist was unavailable to give evidence and the Crown Prosecution Service was not in possession of the case files. By November 8, a witness said, “No pleas were heard.”
Earlier this year, DPP Greene exhorted the media to refrain publishing “any matter which prejudges issues which are to be tried or are being tried by the Court,” as stated in the criminal code under Section 380, subsection H.
As media personnel were not allowed into the courtroom on November 8, whether due to the above-mentioned law or high court regulation, I resorted to asking the first lawyer that walked out of the courthouse what usually retards a case of such importance. “It depends,” was all he could say, “Since the report was unavailable the last time, it would have to be presented this time.” He continued, “Sometimes, when the trial date is nearing and the court notices that it’s not ready, it’s adjourned again.”
Neither DPP Greene nor other members of the Crown Prosecution Service informed Mrs. Pratt – the only witness to the crime – of the case’s adjournments. She also claims that the High Commissioner of Saint Lucia to England, Guy Mayers, is not able to give her any information either, because contact with Daarsrean Greene has been unsuccessful.
Although no formal information has been shared by authorities, according to Margaret, the delay is still related to the unavailability of the psychiatric report of Richie Kern’s fitness to plead, which has been pending since May 12, 2017. The expert witness (psychologist/psychiatrist), according to Margaret, has not turned up to court on at least two occasions.
Her attorney informed that when the psychiatric report is presented to court, “a technical change to the indictments to allow the case to go forward with three defendants instead of four” must be made.”
The matter has been further adjourned to November 24, 2017.