Former Public Services Association (PSA) president and Tobago House of Assembly deputy chief secretary Watson Duke has been committed to stand trial for a set of criminal charges related to the alleged rape and indecent assault of a former subordinate.
The current THA member for Roxborough/Argyle was committed by Magistrate Marisa Gomez at the end of his preliminary inquiry on Tuesday.
Duke was granted $250,000 bail to cover all the charges, which he reportedly accessed immediately after the hearing.
He will now have to await a trial in the High Court, which can take well over five years considering the current backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.
Duke is accused of allegedly committing acts of serious indecency against a woman, a then employee of the union, on four occasions between January and April 2016 at the union’s headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
He is also accused of having sexual intercourse with the woman against her will on May 10, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
When he was charged over seven years ago, Duke vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
This is yet another matter in which Duke will have to defend himself before the local courts.
In 2021, Duke was convicted of making a false fire report and was fined $1,200.
The charge related to an incident on September 19, 2017, when Duke tripped a fire alarm at the Arima Borough Corporation’s office at Hollis Avenue, Arima, during a protest action.
In June, Duke’s appeal against his conviction and sentence, which was the maximum penalty under the Fire Services Act, was dismissed.
The outcome of the appeal was not based on the merits of the case but rather due to his failure to attend a court hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain.
In 2020, Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle also dismissed a sedition charge against Duke.
The move was based on a decision of High Court Judge Frank Seepersad to strike out aspects of the Sedition Act that he ruled were unconstitutional, in a case brought by former Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Sat Maharaj.
Appeals against Justice Seepersad’s judgment were upheld by the Court of Appeal, and later the Privy Council earlier this year.
The sedition charge against Duke related to statements on proposed lay-offs at State-owned utility companies, which he made in a media conference on November 16, 2018.
Duke was represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, and John Heath, SC, while Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Danielle Thompson represented the State.