Missing pieces of evidence stall hearing of rape appeal

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Michael Abrams

Missing pieces of the notes of evidence have been stalling the hearing of pensioner Michael Abrams’s appeal against his convictions and two life sentences for raping a six-year-old girl.

During a case management hearing on Monday, the Court of Appeal instructed Abrams’s lawyer, Glenn Hanoman, and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DDPP), Diana Kaulesar-O’Brien, to work together so that there can be a holistic approach to settling the record of appeal.

The parties have been given until June 14 to communicate their progress, if any, to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Judicature, Sueanna Lovell. Thereafter, the Appellate Court would set a date to hear arguments in the matter.

The issue with the record has been ongoing for quite some time. In fact, when the matter was first called in August 2021, Hanoman complained of the missing notes of evidence, prompting the court to order the prosecution to make efforts at retrieving them.

Hanoman had previously contended that his client’s case would be severely hampered if the missing records are not located. He had noted that this would not only be unfair to his client, but it would also be prejudicial.

According to Hanoman, the missing record includes information from a voir dire, the evidence-in-chief of the complainant, pieces of her cross-examination, as well as the trial Judge’s summation to the jury.

The three-judge Bench comprises Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud.

Back in 2017, Abrams was convicted of two counts of child rape by a 12-member jury. Both verdicts were unanimous. The first count for which Abrams was found guilty occurred at sometime between January 1 and 19, 2016, and the second count occurred on January 19, 2016.

During the trial proceedings which were held in-camera, the court had heard the testimony of Abrams inserting his finger into the six-year-old girl’s vagina, and also of him sodomising her.

Trial Judge Simone Morris-Ramlall had admonished Abrams for his wrongdoings, telling him, “You say you are a devoted Catholic, I hope you pray to God and ask forgiveness.”

Following the guilty verdicts, Abrams, who had described himself as a “devoted Catholic”, had said that even though the jury “in their wisdom” had found him guilty, he is maintaining his innocence.

“This situation makes me feel sad. I felt like the accused [Abrams] would try to hurt me,” the rape survivor had expressed in a victim impact statement.

For her part, the State Prosecutor had urged the court to impose the maximum sentence on Abrams. In so doing, she had pointed out that the rape convict had abused his position of trust, and had violated the child in the worst possible way, shattering her innocence.

From the testimonies presented at trial, Justice Morris-Ramlall said, it was evident that the young girl loved Abrams. The Judge said that Abrams “pretended” to love her, and treated her “like a beast.”

In sentencing the child rapist, the Judge had taken into consideration the aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as the circumstances surrounding the case. In the end, she had sentenced him to serve life imprisonment on each of the two counts. The sentences are to run concurrently. Abrams becomes eligible for parole only after serving 35 years in prison.

The convict is asking the Appellate Court to set aside both his sentences and convictions. He argues, inter alia, that the trial Judge failed to adequately put his defence to the jury. This, Abrams contends, amounts to a grave miscarriage of justice.