Dominica’s laws should change – DPP

by: - February 26, 2013
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Director of Public Prosecutions, Gene Pestaina (file photo)

Director of Public Prosecutions, Gene Pestaina (file photo)

Director of public prosecutions Gene Pestaina has called for a “drastic” change of Dominica’s laws.

Mr. Pestaina’s call comes on the heels of a murder trial which ended in a guilty verdict of manslaughter at the High Court of Justice on Monday, February 25th.

“I’m of the view that we should have our laws changed drastically. When the three options are given to an accused person to remain in the prisoner’s dock and say nothing, or to make an unsworn statement, or to go and give evidence from the witness stand under oath, and they choose to make an unsworn statement; a smart Alick accused can always give you a story in between what he has heard, for the first time and it doesn’t matter what you say to the jury about taking what they have heard with a grain of salt, they take it as the gospel truth,” Mr Pestaina told reporters after the trial late Monday afternoon.

Clement Labassiere of Vieille Case was accused of murdering his granduncle, Ambrose Leblanc of Vieille Case following a land dispute on February 16th, 2011.

After deliberating for over two hours, the nine-member jury could not arrive at a unanimous verdict and found him guilty 8 votes to 1 of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

Labassiere who chose to give an unsworn statement from the prisoner’s dock, meaning that he did not swear under oath neither could he be cross-examined by Mr. Pestaina, took almost three hours to give his account of what transpired in court last Thursday.

“This is brand new evidence given from the prisoner’s dock and it cannot be cross-examined and the jury accepted it as gospel truth,” Mr Pestaina said of Labassiere’s unsworn statement.

This he referred to as “an unfair judgment, unfair process” in making a case for amendments to the laws.

Labassiere who was represented by defence counsel Darius Jones admitted that he relied “very heavily on self defence” as there were issues relating to the cause of death. Labassiere told police officers and said in court that he sent a plastic pipe at Mr. Leblanc. That pipe was also given to the investigating officers.

However, they were not convinced that a plastic pipe was used, as Mr Leblanc sustained severe wound to his head and died three days later at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

While Jones indicated that they respect the decision of the jury, he did not rule out the possibility of an appeal.

Labassiere will be sentenced on March 13th and the maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years to life imprisonment.

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