Court name
Supreme Court of Turks and Caicos Islands
Case number
B 26 of 2010

Morris v. Regina (B 26 of 2010) [2010] TCASC 22 (05 November 2010);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2010] TCASC 22
Coram
Ward, CJ

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

Criminal Jurisdiction

Case No: B 26/10

BETWEEN

STEPHENSON MORRIS

AND

REGINAM

Applicant in person

A Brooks for Crown

Hearing: 1 November 2010

Ruling:    5 November 2010

Ruling

[1]           The applicant, Stephenson Morris has applied for bail pending appeal. He was convicted following a trial by jury before me. I sentenced him to a total term of three years imprisonment. He appeals against conviction and sentence on a number of grounds challenging various aspects of my conduct of the trial.

[2]           On 24 August 2010, his application for bail pending appeal was listed before me. However, Mr Morris expressed concern that I, as the trial judge, should hear this application. In any application for bail pending appeal the court must consider the grounds of appeal and the likelihood of success because it is only when a real possibility of success exists that the court will grant bail. The fact I had heard the trial and had sentenced him left him with a fear that I may not take an objective view of his chances of success on appeal. I accept that was an expression of genuine concern.

[3]           He also suggested that, if he was not given bail, he would have served a large part of the sentence by the time the appeal was heard.

[4]           At the hearing on 24 August 2010, he initially asked me to recuse myself. I do not consider the mere fact that I was the trial judge is sufficient reason to recuse myself from an application of this nature but it was apparent, as I have stated, that he was genuinely anxious about the situation and so I adjourned the application and directed that it should be heard by Williams J on Providenciales.

[5]           It appears it was listed before him on 29 October 2010, but, as a result of the preceding case overrunning its estimated time, Mr Morris’s application could not be heard before it was necessary to return him to prison. Williams J explained that he did not think he could End another date in the next few weeks.

[6]           I was advised by Williams J that Mr Morris had asked, as a result, to be able to make an application before me and I directed that he should be brought before me on 1 November 2010.

[7]           On that day, Mr Morris told me that, when he asked if he could make an application before me, his intention was to be able to make the actual application for bail pending appeal. I pointed out that the concerns he had so fluently expressed in August clearly remained and he should not abandon them for expediency.

[8]           He then addressed me specifically on that question; namely whether Williams J or I should hear the application for bail pending appeal.

[9]           He suggested that he was unlikely to have his appeal decided before he had served 70 to 80% of his sentence. Such a possibility is an important factor in deciding whether or not to grant bail pending appeal. He told the court that his earliest release date was in April 2012 which did not appear consistent with his suggestion he would serve more than three quarters of the sentence before the appeal was heard.

[10]         He explained his reasoning as follows. The next sitting of the Court of Appeal is in January or February 2011. At that hearing he anticipates the Court will simply order that he should have legal aid. The next sitting of the Court would be in August or September but he expected the judges would reserve their decision until the next sitting early in 2012, as is commonly the case. By that time, he will be very close to completing his sentence. I do not accept that is a likely timescale.

[11]         Mr Morris then pointed out that, unless he obtained bail, it would be unlikely that he would be able to instruct a lawyer to represent him in the Court of Appeal. It is relevant to note that that one matter he raises in his grounds of appeal relates to the fact that, although he had been granted legal aid for the trial, his counsel was unable to attend and he had to represent himself. The legal aid had been granted to a lawyer from Jamaica because of the difficulty Mr Morris has in finding a lawyer from this jurisdiction who is willing to accept his instructions. When legal aid was granted to the Jamaican lawyer, it was pointed out to him that it would only cover the fees and he would have to find funds for the lawyer’s travel and accommodation expenses. He advised the court more that once that he was able to do so.

[12]         Shortly before the trial he was remanded in custody by the Magistrate's Court in another matter and, because of that, he was unable to fund the Jamaican lawyer adequately. It was for that reason she did not attend the trial.

[13]         He points out that the same difficulties will apply to his appeal. He is requesting that legal aid be granted to an overseas lawyer and accepting that he will have to find the additional expenses. However he points out that, as on the previous occasion, the fact he is in custody makes it impossible for him to find those funds. If granted bail, he is confident he will be able to do so.

[14]         As I have already stated, I do not consider it likely that the appeal will take as long to be completed as Mr Morris contends. I suggested I could assist by arranging legal aid shortly. Mr Morris points out that, until an attempt has been made to find a lawyer here, it is not possible to know whether it will again be necessary to look abroad.

[15]         I shall return the case to Williams J to fix a time to hear the application for bail pending appeal. I fully appreciate the difficulty the learned judge will have in finding time to hear the application but, in the light of the applicant’s release date, I do not consider such a delay unreasonable or unfair.

[16]         In the meantime I shall, as I have said, ensure the applicant is granted legal aid. If, that having been done, he is unable to find a lawyer in this jurisdiction, he can make further application for an overseas lawyer and possibly renew his application for bail pending appeal on the ground of a need to obtain the extra funds. I make it clear that I am not suggesting such an application will succeed; simply that he would have liberty to reapply on that as a fresh ground.

Gordon Ward

Chief Justice