Charges of unlawful harm and assault with a firearm against a Crown counsel attached to the Department of Public Prosecutions have been dismissed after the defendant’s girlfriend declined to take the matter further.
Giovanni James appeared before Magistrate Charon Gardener at the First District Court in Castries on Monday, June 3, 2013, but the virtual complainant “made representation of not wanting to proceed with the matter” and “the matter was consequently dismissed for want of prosecution”, according to a press release from the Police Press Office.
The press release further stated that on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at about 1:30 am, officers attached to the Criminal Investigations Department responded to a distress call at Union Hilltop, Castries.
“On arrival the officers were met by a young woman who identified herself to them. Based on her report and certain observations made by the police, she was removed from the scene and was transported to Victoria Hospital where she was medically examined, treated and discharged.
“Subsequently, an investigation ensued. Giovanni James, a Crown counsel attached to the Department of Public Prosecutions, was arrested and charged for unlawful harm and assault with a firearm,” the press release added.
When St. Lucia News Online broke the news on Monday, June 3, 2013, indicating that James was confirmed charged and was appearing in court, several court and police sources contacted our news team with fury, indicating that our information was erroneous.
One of the court sources specifically told our news team that James was never charged and the case may be dismissed, and that we should remove that he is charged from the story and the headlines. Another source from the justice system told SNO that the complainant was never hospitalised and that we should wait on complete and correct information.
Initially, the Police Press Office indicated that it had no information on the incident when contacted, though reliable SNO sources indicated that James was charged and the only way he could have appeared in court is if he was charged.
Managing Director and Editor of Andrews Media Services Corporation dba St. Lucia News Online, Merrick Andrews, has expressed his disappointment with several officials over the handling of the matter.
Andrews explained: “St. Lucia News Online was in receipt of this news since the day it happened, on Saturday, June 1, 2013, but decided to hold the information until Monday when it was expected that James would be charged/appear in court. Our court reporter was present at court on Monday and confirmed that James, having been charged, is also scheduled to appear in court.
“Later on, it was confirmed by our reporter on location that James is in court, so we went ahead and posted the story that James was arrested and charged. Moments later, sources on Blackberry Messenger and at the court house informed us that our information was incorrect and that the complainant (James’ girlfriend) was never hospitalized and that James was never charged and will not be charged. We were also informed that we could be slapped with a lawsuit if we do not remove the part that he is charged. Earlier, our reporter had made contact with the Police Press Office for information and was told that the Office had no information on the matter, which is weird considering that we knew for a fact that the man was charged.
“Why would he appear in court if he was not charged? And why would the police not have information on such a serious matter? And for any matter to be dismissed IN COURT, the alleged perpetrator had to be charged! It made no sense and we sensed a cover-up. While I can understand the difficult circumstances being experienced by James and the complainant, the news media has a right to report on such matters, regardless of the professional status of the persons involved in the case. Many such cases have gone through the court system and our news team never had any road block or threats leveled against us regarding obtaining such information. Nobody in Saint Lucia is above the law. A crime is a crime.
“Please note that we are not accusing James of being involved in any cover-up. We have no evidence he tried to cover-up his case. What we are pointing out are the road blocks being put in our way by some members of the justice system in ensuring that we provide accurate information. We were being deliberately misled by several persons. This is an issue we are bringing up against those officials, not James.”
Andrews added: “We are however happy that the Police Press Office eventually gave a comprehensive report on the conclusion of the matter today, indicating that the charges against James have been dismissed because the young lady declined to proceed with the matter. However, I urge persons in the justice system to be fair and balanced in the handling of all cases. It did not look right trying to mislead our online newspaper and our news team when we had factual information that James was charged, that the charges were assault related, and that the complainant was hospitalised.”
James was called to the Bar in August 2009.