Magistrate asked to recuse herself from Sharma witness tampering case

The Preliminary Inquiry into the first witness tampering charge against Chandra Narine Sharma did not get underway as scheduled yesterday as Special Prosecutor Sanjeev Datadin made an application for the magistrate to recuse herself from the matter.

When the matter was called up before Magistrate Geeta Chandan Persid-Edmond, Datadin indicated to her that some information had been brought to his attention recently and he wanted to make an application based on it.

There was a brief adjournment for him to consult with defence counsel Nigel Hughes and Vic Puran.

Upon resumption, Datadin made an application for Magistrate Persid-Edmond to recuse herself from the proceedings against Sharma.

He said that the basis of his application lies in the fact that Hughes is her counsel in a matter against the Judicial Service Commission, and his presence in this matter may prejudice the prosecution’s case.

Hughes then said that he had no problem with the matter being transferred and indicated that he will continue to represent Sharma in the matter.

However, he said it should be noted that the matter was not transferred to Court 10 on his request.  The attorney added that it was public knowledge that he was representing the magistrate in the matter against the JSC and did not see this as being biased against the prosecution.

Continuing, he said that if the prosecution had any other difficulties it should then voice them.  He said that he wanted to know in which court he would be allowed to practice since a similar objection was raised by the DPP in the pink suitcase cocaine matter.

In that matter, the DPP had written to the Chief Justice requesting that Justice William Ramlal recuse himself from hearing the matter because Hughes represented the judge’s sister, Supreme Court Registrar Sita Ramlal in a matter.

Datadin said that he was obliged to raise the application but it was up to the court to make the determination on the issue.

Puran said that once a matter falls within a prohibited relationship, it is best to transfer the matter to another court.  He said the transfer would only affect the matters in which Hughes has entered an appearance.

The magistrate then put down the case for July 20 when a decision on the application will be handed down.

On April 26, Sharma was charged with attempting to obstruct the course of justice.  It is alleged that on April 15, he wilfully attempted to obstruct the course of justice by removing two of the girls at the centre of the allegations against him from their known address and taking them to a house at 123 Golden Grove, East Bank Demerara in order to prevent them from being questioned by the police in relation to the allegations.  He was later placed on $100,000 bail by the magistrate.

On July 1, Sharma was arraigned on another charge of witness tampering and was released on $150,000 bail.

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