Minibus operator Julian Richards of Diamond was this week freed on charges of rape and indecent assault, after the complainants in the matter refused to testify against him.
The complainants are said to be twin sisters, who were both 15-year-old students at the time of the report.
Richards was charged with raping one of the girls, and indecently assaulting the other. The incidents were alleged to have occurred in 2017 but the report was made the following year.
The trial commenced at the High Court Criminal Assizes last week, and the young ladies were slated to testify on Thursday, November 4. They did not show up when summoned, and the Court issued a warrant to have them brought before the Court.
The girls showed up on Monday, November 8, and they both indicated from the witness stand that they did not want to proceed any further with the matter.
When Crown Counsel Rose-Ann Richardson asked the complainants, who were called to the stand separately, whether they made this decision of their own free will, they replied in the affirmative.
When the Crown Counsel asked them if they were threatened to say so, or promised anything, the he girls responded, “No please.”
Justice Brian Cottle told the sisters, “The matter that brought us to this court is a very serious offence, and this is a very serious case. You said you don’t want to proceed, and that’s your right, but you must come to the Court and say so.”
When the Judge inquired of the first of the girls to be called to the stand why she was not at Court on Thursday to testify in the matter, she replied, “I did not know anything about that until about midday.”
When he asked other girl, “Did you know that this trial had started?”, she replied, “No please.”
Turning to Richards’s attorney Grant Connell, Justice Cottle inquired whether he intended to cross-examine at this point. The lawyer said no, but informed the court that the defence was making an application for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution thus far, to sustain the charges.
Justice Cottle agreed, and directed the nine-member jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty.
Speaking with the Media later, Connell said, “It is unfair for an accused person to be charged, and dragged before the Court for some four years, only to hear that the complainants do not wish to continue with the matters.”
Connell pointed out that, “On reading the deposition, there are significant issues which arise that questioned whether the allegations had any merit, and that is why the police need to put more emphasis when investigating matters of this nature.”
According to the lawyer, “It is not just about entertaining a report, going to an alleged crime scene and saying that’s where it happened, or completing a medical. But if you dealing with a police force that is at variance with the modern practice of forensic investigation, what do you expect?” Connell posited.
The attorney also alluded to the reaction to someone who might be charged, and dragged before the Courts. He suggested that they are branded, possibly for life.
“All it takes is an allegation, and the accused has to hope for the best. Even if they are acquitted, their character is already stained, so in a sense the accused becomes a victim too,” he explained.