Lawyer Kamal Worrell has adopted a wait and see approach now that Bermuda’s Court of Appeal has dismissed the Crown’s appeal against him, on charges that he conspired with others to have a prosecution witness give false evidence.
Nearly two weeks after Court of Appeal threw out the case filed by Crown Counsel Carrington Mahoney, the Director of Public Prosections (DPP), Larry Mussenden, has yet to say whether or not plans are underway to take it any further.
Their last course of action would be to take the case to the Privy Council. By law, the Crown has 21 days from the date of the ruling to file notice of their intent to appeal.
The ruling was handed down by Court of Appeal President Sir Scott Baker. He dismissed the Crown’s case in a 16-page ruling handed down on June 17th,
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Acting DPP Cindy Clarke said: “Please be advised that the current appeal period has not yet expired.
“As such, it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter that is still under consideration by our office.”
She noted that Mr Mussenden was off island at the time of our query.
In an exclusive interview however, Mr Worrell said despite the dark cloud that’s been looming over him and his career, he’s pleased with the ruling.
Overall, he said: “I’m pleased by the ruling because it made clear that the judge at first instance (Justice Charlesetta Simmons) was indeed correct to rule that there was no evidence to support the charges.
“Prior to a change of law that actually only took effect midway through my trial, a judge’s ruling that there was no case to answer could not be challenged by the prosecution. Hence, if the judge was wrong in ruling that there was no case to answer, there was no way of judicially testing the correctness of the decision,” said Mr Worrell.
“That state of affairs was clearly undesirable as it gave rise to potential injustices. Now that the law has changed, the Court of Appeal is empowered to review such decisions and judge’s, where found to have been wrong, can be corrected and, where found to be right, can be affirmed,” he added.
As for the Crown’s right to appeal to the Privy Council, he said: “The DPP is a constitutionally independent entity with full discretion when it comes to continuing criminal proceedings. Therefore, it would be entirely up to that office to decide whether to continue the proceedings.”
But he said: “I would think it very unfortunate if the DPP sought to pursue this matter any further in light of the ruling, which has now been supported by no less than four Bermuda Justices, including the Honourable Chief Justice, that I had no case to answer.”
You may recall a key focal point of the Crown’s case was a secretly recorded conversation recorded by Mr Worrell on his cell phone during a school yard meeting.
Based on the Court of Appeal ruling, as it turns out that recording was Mr Worrell’s ‘saving grace’.
Asked if he would ever do what he did again, he said: “First, it has to be said that there was nothing criminal in meeting with the prosecution witness.
“As to whether it breached any professional rule, I think it is fair to say that it did not. Certainly, there has been no action taken by the Bermuda Bar Council in this regard. This would suggest that no such complaint was ever made to the Bar Council by the prosecution, or anyone else.
“Indeed, I rely upon the view of a notable Queen’s Counsel that, by recording the meeting and having a third party present as a witness, I was acting ethically, and in accordance with acceptable UK practice,” he said.
“It is true that the Court of Appeal did indicate that the Bar Council may wish to consider the scope of the present rules. However, the Court also accepted that I did not breach the rules by conducting the meeting and, in fact, the rules imposed upon me positive a duty to follow my client’s instructions and to fearlessly represent his interests.
“The answer to your question, then, is this: It all depends upon the circumstances of the particular case in question, and the relevant rules in force at the material time.”
During the initial proceedings, Mr Worrell opted to represent himself in Bermuda’s Supreme Court. We asked him why he opted to go with a lawyer to represent him this time.
“I decided to have legal representation for the appeal hearing because no one can hope to achieve anything totally on one’s own,” he replied.
“Although I represented myself at trial, those were different circumstances, and they called for different considerations. People will always require help in one form or another. But it takes wisdom to appreciate when to step aside and hand over control to another.
“For me, the appeal was precisely such a time and I am very pleased that I was able to avail myself of the counsel and reprentation and of Mr Hodgson,” he said.
This case has been looming over him and his legal profession for more than a year. We asked Mr Worrell about the personal impact of facing a prison sentence if convicted.
“The whole process has been quite an ordeal. Due to the nature and seriousness of the charges brought against me, had I been convicted I would have surely been disbarred and imprisoned. So, I had to live with that dark cloud hanging over my head for a year-and-a-half,” Mr Worrell said.
“It has undoubtedly affected me in terms of my professional and personal life. Of course, I always maintained that I was innocent. So, to be falsely accused has had a particularly grievous effect on my life which has only begun to subside with the vindication afforded by the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
“There is always a real danger that one’s reputation will suffer as a result of an allegation of criminal conduct. That is, certainly, all the more true in the legal profession, and all the more serious when involving allegations of dishonesty,” he added.
“Be that as it may, I believe that actions speak louder than words and, as it is written in the Bible: ‘A tree is known by its fruit’. Just as a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, a good tree will not yield bad fruit. Thus, this entire experience has served to encourage me more than ever to continue to bear my good fruit, through continuing to render fearless and selfless service to the public.”
But it’s not officially over until the 21-day deadline to file notice of their intent to appeal has passed.
To date, Mr Worrell has not received any notice. In the interim he said: “I would find it most unfortunate if the DPP sought to use his discretion, not to mention public funds, to pursue this matter any further, in light of the rulings that have been supported by no less than four Bermuda Justices including the Honourable Chief Justice of Bermuda.
“This case has taken great toll on me professionally, emotionally and personally. Based on the seriousness of the charges I had to live with the prospect, in the event of a conviction, of being disbarred and losing my very livelihood. Not only that but I would have surely faced prison time.”
And living through it for nearly two years he said has been anything but easy.
By Ceola Wilson