Two University of the West Indies (UWI) students have been freed of charges arising out of a protest over security at the institution’s St Augustine campus in 2018.
Nathanael John and Brian Richards were freed of charges for resisting arrest and obstructing police officers in the execution of their duties during a virtual hearing of their case before Magistrate Sherene Murray-Bailey yesterday.
Guardian Media understands that when the case was called the prosecuting State attorney indicated that the Office of the Director of Public (DPP) would discontinue the charges against Richards but not John.
John’s legal team requested that the trial begin during the virtual hearing under the practice directions issued by Chief Justice Ivor Archie for court hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the prosecutors asked for it to be adjourned so the trial could take place in a courtroom at the Tunapuna Magistrate’s Court.
After Murray-Bailey upheld John’s submissions and started the case, the DPP’s Office did not lead the evidence of any its witnesses.
Attorney Keith Scotland, who was part of John’s legal team, then presented a no-case submission in which he pointed out there was insufficient evidence to warrant the charge. Scotland’s submission was upheld and the charges were dismissed.
Contacted yesterday, John said he was pleased by the outcome but complained over how the case was prosecuted.
“It has been an emotionally and mentally draining two years...I don’t think justice was served,” John said, as he noted the case was delayed several times after police officers failed to attend hearings.
Saying he and his co-accused made 10 court appearances before the outcome, John said: “Many times I had to postpone different events I had to do and even classes. It was frustrating.”
According to reports, the duo was arrested in October 2018 while participating in a protest at the southern entrance to UWI’s campus. They were accused of blocking officers from clearing a crowd of protesters who blocked the gate from vehicular traffic. The student protest was sparked by an incident in which a female student was attacked by an intruder and almost raped.
The duo was also represented by John Jeremie, SC, Prakash Ramadhar, Brian Baig and Keisha Kidd-Hannibal.