Prima facie case made out against two in torching of ministry building – Magistrate

The court yesterday found that a prima facie case has been made out against Colin Jones and Clayton Westford in the matter of the burning of the Ministry of Health’s building in 2009 after hearing no-case submissions.

Magistrate Judy Latchman made the ruling a preliminary inquiry when the two accused appeared before her at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.

June 17 has now been set for the next hearing and final submissions by the defence.

Colin Jones
Colin Jones

Attorney-at-Law Michael Somersall who represented Westford made no-case submissions. He vehemently argued that there is no case for his client to answer since the prosecution has failed on several grounds to prove its case.

Somersall contended that the prosecution had failed in its duty to prove the constituent elements of the offence for which his client is charged. Meanwhile, Jones, who was unrepresented by counsel, took the opportunity to speak when given the chance and echoed similar sentiments as those expressed by Westford’s Lawyer.

After listening to both sides, Magistrate Latchman informed the defence that its no-case submissions would be overruled and that a prima facie case had been made out against both accused.

The matter has been adjourned to June 17 for both the defence and prosecution to make final submissions after which the court will hand down its ruling.

When the matter was called the magistrate ordered the prosecution to close its case since it was unable to produce other witnesses to testify in the matter.

The allegation against the jointly-charged duo is that between July 16 and 17, 2009 at Brickdam, they unlawfully and maliciously set fire to the Ministry of Health’s building.

A huge fire sparked by channa bombs completely destroyed the Ministry of Health’s main building and an annex at Brickdam in the wee hours of the morning on July 17, devouring decades-old records, vehicles and a string of key divisions in a major blow to the health sector.

The raging inferno erupted some time before 3 am and rumbled on for three hours amid a downpour and a valiant campaign by the Guyana Fire Service to save three buildings in the ministry’s southern wing and its immediate neighbour, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

The conflagration levelled the offices of two ministers, permanent secretary, chief medical officer and administrative staff, the Registry, Disease Control Unit, Adolescent Health Unit, Tobacco Control Unit, Standards Department and a section of the Accounts Department.

Clayton Westford
Clayton Westford

On July 27, 2009 Jones was charged with setting the Ministry’s building on fire but had escaped and was later recaptured.

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