Bus driver to face new trial over pensioner’s death

-after Appeal Court overturns magistrate’s dismissal of charge

Bus driver Salill Budhoo will face a new trial for the dangerous driving death of a pensioner after the state on Thursday won its appeal against the dismissal of the charge in 2013.

Acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory ruled in the state’s favour, finding that presiding magistrate Alex Moore had erred by not allowing the prosecution’s available witnesses to testify at Budhoo’s trial for causing the death of 76-year-old Ramdularie Singh.

Chancellor Cummings-Edwards said that the case was not tried on its merits and as a result, Budhoo will have to be charged and placed before the courts again, though before a different magistrate.

In her petition that the appeal be allowed, State Counsel Natasha Backer had said that Magistrate Moore dismissed the case “for want of prosecution,” without hearing its witnesses.

Ramdularie Singh

According to Backer, the magistrate contended that the prosecution repeatedly failed to present a case for the defendant to answer and informed that the case would therefore be struck out.

Acknowledging that the prosecution had been granted several adjournments to produce witnesses, Backer had taken issue with the fact that at the material time Magistrate Moore threw out the case, the prosecution had witnesses to testify.

In his challenge to the appeal, Budhoo’s lawyer contended that if the state felt its available witnesses had to testify, the appropriate remedy would have been for Moore to be compelled to take the evidence of those witnesses.

He argued that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), in accordance with Section 37 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Appeals) Act, could have compelled the magistrate to execute his duties.

The lawyer’s position, was that there was no need for the state to waste time in appealing the matter.

The chancellor, however, reiterated that notwithstanding Section 37, the case needed to be tried on its merits.

The court also found that the state’s appeal was filed within time, contrary to what Budhoo’s lawyer had contended.

Backer had previously submitted to the court that Magistrate Moore dismissed the case “for want of prosecution,” citing inordinate delays by the prosecution. She said when the case was dismissed on June 20, 2013, four of the prosecution’s nine witnesses were present and ready to testify, but Magistrate Moore refused to take their evidence, while contending that they were “peripheral” witnesses and that he wanted to hear from the two main witnesses in the case, instead.

But the state counsel vehemently argued that the magistrate should have taken the evidence of the available witnesses, albeit peripheral, and not what he at the time thought should be testimonies from the two main witnesses.

She contended that the prosecution presented its witnesses to testify according to law, and found the magistrate’s decision to dismiss the case as being “erroneous and egregious.”

Budhoo’s lawyer, however, argued that the magistrate was only using his discretion for which the law allows, when he dismissed the case for want of prosecution because of inordinate delays, facilitated by one adjournment after other.

Asked whether he thought the magistrate was right to throw out the case, even though witnesses were present to testify, the lawyer told the Chancellor he was, but could produce no authority to back his position.

Backer had, however, strongly expressed the belief that if the prosecution witnesses were allowed to testify, a prima facie case showing sufficiency of evidence would have succeeded.

The charge against Budhoo had stated that on September 16, 2012, on the Montrose Public Road, he drove minibus number BNN 7851 in a manner dangerous to the public, thereby causing Singh’s death.

The horrific collision occurred shortly as Singh was returning to her Berbice home, after seeing her daughter board a New York-bound flight.

Police had said investigations into the three-vehicle smash up revealed that the driver of minibus BNN 7851 attempted to overtake a truck, GNN 5130, and collided with motor car PMM 1123, which was proceeding in the opposite direction. While a number of other persons were injured in the accident, only Singh died.

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