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Oct 29, 1999

Matura wins contempt of court case

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This morning a number of people came out to the Supreme Court in support of Audrey Matura Tillett, a United Democratic Party Senator and the Editor of the Guardian newspaper who was there to answer charges of contempt of court. Matura Tillett was summoned to court because of an article she had written about the judicial system in her weekly column, Pandora’s Box. The article in question allegedly casts aspersions on two Supreme Court Justices and the quality of justice rendered by the Supreme Court. Adolph Lucas, the Director of Public Prosecutions filed the application against Matura Tillett. News Five’s Jacqueline Woods was at the Supreme Court and files this report.

The proceedings got underway shortly after ten a.m. in courtroom number one. In his opening address the D.P.P. Adolph Lucas stated that because he was the one who filed the affidavit, it would be contrary to legal procession rules to represent himself. Therefore Linbergh Willis would represent his case. Dean Barrow presented for the defense. From the beginning Audrey Matura Tillett has maintained that the content of her article was not in contempt of court.

Audrey Matura Tillett, Editor, Guardian Newspaper

“First of all it was a fair comment. I don’t think what I said was contemptuous. It was not intended to bring disrepute on the court and most of all what I said is true. If I felt that I was saying a lie and thus being unjust on the court or anyone involved with the court then I felt I would be deserving of this.”

But as the matter was about to proceed, defense attorney Dean Barrow put forward a number of preliminary objections stating that there are reasons why the matter should be dismissed. Following Barrow’s presentation, Willis stood up and told Supreme Court Judge George Brown, that they were taken off guard and requested for an adjournment. But Brown only granted a fifteen-minute break.

Audrey Matura Tillett

“Well, without trying to prejudice the outcome, after hearing the arguments of Mr. Barrow I think he gave very good solid grounds. And I think he was proper in objecting to any further break because the people who are bringing charges against me should be fully prepared and should have looked at all the different outlets and angles that they have to argue because Mr. Barrow is a very experienced and learned person and for something like this he would come thoroughly prepared.”

Dean Barrow, Defense Attorney

“He need to support the application for leave with a statement setting out certain things including the grounds on which he hope to commit Ms. Matura for contempt: the name, description, address of Miss Matura. So in effect when he failed to do this, he failed both on procedural grounds and on substantive grounds because procedurally he did not even file the statement he was supposed to file and while he may have tried to do it in another way to cite some grounds, he left out the essential elements of the offence of contempt.

There are certain things that constitute this kind of contempt. In particular you need to allege before you can even get the court to hear you, that the person you say is in contempt, publish the article with intent to bring the court in to contempt. And you must further allege that apart from the person’s intent, the article was objectively likely to bring the court into disrepute. He alleged neither of these things in his statement of offence and in my submission for those reasons, the application must be dismissed.”

However, Lucas told News Five there was no need to establish intent because there are records of previous contempt cases that have already been tried in the Supreme Court. In the end, Justice Brown said the three objections raised by the defense were well grounded and he ruled that the matter not proceed any further.

(Matura walks through door and crowd cheers.)

Matura Tillett says she is grateful for the support she received before and during the proceedings.

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