Appeal court clears way for trial of Westford, Cummings over alleged bid to steal gov’t vehicles

The trial of former Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford and the ministry’s former Chief Personnel Officer Margaret Cummings, who are accused of attempting to steal state vehicles, can now continue after the Appeal Court discharged their request to stay the proceedings against them in the magistrate’s court.

On Wednesday, Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud, Arif Bulkan and Rafiq Khan lifted the stay which had previously been granted by Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory, thereby paving the way for the trial to proceed.

Justice Gregory had granted the stay to halt the trial, until the hearing and determination of an appeal the women had filed against former acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards’ rejection of their application to have the High Court hear their case, instead of the lower court.

Margaret Cummings

A date is yet to be set for the hearing of that appeal.

In arguments before the Court on Wednesday, Solicitor General Kim Kyte advanced that Justice Gregory had misdirected herself in law, while noting that she had no jurisdiction to grant the order.

Kyte argued, also, that the applicants’ appeal has no merit and no real prospect of success.

She said that the very appeal filed does not stem from the proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court, but rather that they sought to appeal Justice Cummings-Edwards’ decision for which they had also requested a stay and been denied.

The Solicitor General was adamant that the former Chief Justice was just in exercising her discretion and that it was also sound.

At the conclusion of arguments, the Court lifted the stay, which now allows for the continuation of the trial.

The trial of Westford and Cummings had commenced on May 15th of last year before city Magistrate Fabayo Azore.

Before the start of the trial, however, the defendants had moved to have the High Court hear their case instead of the lower court. On October 12th, 2016, Justice Cummings-Edwards rejected their application.

Through their attorneys, Westford and Cummings in November, 2016, appealed Justice Cummings-Edwards’ decision.

At a hearing in early April last year, defence attorney Dexter Todd had told the magistrate that he had already applied to the Court of Appeal, seeking a stay of the decision made by the High Court.

In their November 16th, 2016 notice of appeal, Westford and Cummings asked for Justice Cummings-Edwards’ decision to be overturned.

The charges against Westford allege that between July 17th, 2014 and June 23rd, 2015, while being employed as a public servant by the Government of Guyana, she attempted to transfer several government-owned vehicles to herself and others. These persons include her husband, Gary Beaton, as well as Wayne Walker and Delroy Lewis.

Cummings, meanwhile, was charged with forging several receipts to show that the vehicles were purchased by Beaton, Walker, Lewis and Westford.

The women have denied the charges levelled against them.

The duo is being represented by Todd, in association with defence attorneys Bettina McKay-Glasford and Senior Counsel Rex McKay and Neil Boston.

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