One year after appeal no new date for vote buying trial

POSTED: 06/22/16 9:08 PM

St. Maarten News – While the parliament engaged this week in a rather senseless second round of debate about – mostly – the term vote buying, the election fraud case that rocked St. Maarten in 2014 and led to accusations of class justice has seemingly come to a complete standstill.

In August 2014, the Court in First Instance ruled that the prosecutor’s office had called upon itself “the semblance of class justice” by prosecuting four police officers and a representative of the United People’s party for selling and buying votes ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections, while UP-leader Theo Heyliger was not dragged into court. The judge used this as the basis for declaring the prosecution inadmissible; he threw the case out with a remarkable ruling that basically declared all the accused guilty.

The prosecutor’s office appealed this ruling and it found the Common Court of Justice on its side when it overruled the lower court in May 2015 and sent the case back for retrial to the Court in First Instance.

Ever since that ruling, pronounced on May 6, 2015, things have become very quiet. Asked when the case will go back to court, the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office stated: “The prosecutor’s office is still busy with this. A definitive date has not been established yet.”

The decision by the Appeals Court to send the case back for retrial is by now more than a year old. The law does not prescribe a term for retrial, but because the alleged violations took place almost six years ago this will have a downward effect on the possible punishment for the four defendants that was already not too high to begin with.

Against Roy H. (60), accused of giving money to his co-defendants in exchange for their vote for the United People’s party, the prosecution demanded in 2014 a 3-month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation and 200 hours of community service. In addition, the prosecution demanded that the court takes away H.’s active and passive voting rights – the right to vote and the right to be elected.

Against two other defendants – Cernick Jan Lionel C. (45) and Ashwin Rodney Wilfred M. (43) – the prosecution demanded at the time a 3-month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation and 180 hours of community service. The last defendant, Robert Charles Henry J. (63), faced a similar sentence but with 150 hours of community service. The prosecution also demanded that the court takes away the active voting rights of all three defendants.

A fifth defendant, police officer Glinda Patricia W., passed away in June 2014.

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