The Supreme Court has dismissed a request by the Financial Investigations Division (FID) to overturn an order that stayed the multimillion-dollar fraud trial of former education minister Ruel Reid and others.
Judge Courtney Daye had in June last year allowed Reid and Fritz Pinnock, president of the Caribbean Maritime University, to ask the Court of Judicial Review to overturn the decision of senior parish judge Chester Crooks that the trial continues.
Attorney Richard Small, who represents IDF, had argued that it was improper for the plaintiffs not to have served IDF in the judicial review proceedings. He pointed out that the IDF was a relevant party and was deprived of the opportunity to consider whether certain aspects of the lawsuit could proceed while the judicial review hearing took place.
Attorney Hugh Wildman, who represents Reid and Pinnock, opposed the request.
Wildman said one could only seek judicial review against a decision-maker and that authority was Judge Crooks, who said he had a conflict of interest and could not judge the case. Wildman said attorneys from the Department of the Attorney General represented Crooks in filing the application.
Judge Andrea Pettigrew Collins, in denying the request last month, agreed with Wildman that she had no jurisdiction to rescind or vary the order. The judge stated that it would be absurd to set aside or vary the order to facilitate the progress of the criminal prosecution in circumstances where it is possible to conclude that all of the orders made by Judge Crooks are invalid and that the order should start again.
The judge awarded the court costs to Reid and Pinnock.
Following a motion before Judge Crooks last year to have the charges against the defendant in the case dropped because IDF agents lacked the power to arrest or bring charges, the judge decided that the trial should continue.
Judge Crooks then recused himself from the trial due to a conflict of interest. He later revealed that he had attended Munro College while Reid was Head Boy.
The petitioners argue that Judge Crooks should have disqualified himself from deciding the case and seek the reversal of his decision.
Reid, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, and Pinnock and Kim Lawrence, Brown’s Town Divisional Councilor, were arrested and charged in 2019 for allegedly embezzling state funds from the Department of Education and CMU. They face multiple charges of fraud and corruption as well as violations of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
They appeared in Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on Thursday and were ordered to return on May 10.
The court was informed that proceedings were pending before the Court of Judicial Review.