Dana Seetahal

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) has been giv­en the green light to re­in­state gang charges against 13 per­sons con­nect­ed to the mur­der of for­mer In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Dana See­ta­hal, SC. 

De­liv­er­ing judg­ment at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, Ap­pel­late Judges Al­ice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mo­hammed ruled that Mag­is­trate In­drani Ce­de­no made an er­ror when she re­fused a re­quest from As­sis­tant DPP George Bus­by to cor­rect a cler­i­cal er­ror which caused the dis­missal of the charges in 2016. 

The judges said: “In our view, this was a case in which a sub­stan­tial er­ror was com­mit­ted, in that, the re­spon­dents may have been de­ceived or mis­led with re­spect of the mode of tri­al. Sub­stan­tial er­rors are ca­pa­ble of cor­rec­tion and the court may grant an ad­journ­ment to en­sure that no prej­u­dice ac­crues to the de­fen­dant.” 

See­ta­hal was shot dead be­hind the wheel of her SUV while dri­ving along Hamil­ton Hold­er Street in Wood­brook on May 4, 2014. 

On Ju­ly 25, 2015, Ra­jee Ali, his broth­ers Ish­mael and Hamid Ali; De­vaughn Cum­mings, Ri­car­do Stew­art, Earl Richards, Stephan Cum­mings, Kevin Parkin­son, Le­ston Gon­za­les; Ro­get Bouch­er and Gareth Wise­man were charged with the crime. 

Ra­jaee’s wife, Sta­cy Grif­fith, De­on Pe­ters and David Ec­tor were charged un­der the An­ti-Gang Act for be­ing mem­bers of a gang.

The gang charges were ini­tial­ly dis­missed based on the fact that they were laid in­dictably (heard and de­ter­mined by a High Court Judge and ju­ry), as op­posed to sum­mar­i­ly (heard and de­ter­mined by a mag­is­trate), as re­quired for first-time of­fend­ers un­der the leg­is­la­tion. 

The is­sue re­sult­ed in Pe­ters and Ec­tor be­ing freed. Grif­fith re­mained be­fore the court on an ad­di­tion­al gang charge which was prop­er­ly laid. 

As Ec­tor was mur­dered in Ju­ly 2018, on­ly Pe­ters will now have to be re­ar­rest­ed and recharged with the of­fence or sum­moned to ap­pear in court. 

As a sec­ondary is­sue in the case, the Ap­peal Court was asked to con­sid­er whether the switch was pos­si­ble, as the Sum­ma­ry Courts Act re­quires that sum­ma­ry charges be brought with­in six months of the com­mis­sion of the of­fence. 

The judges not­ed that the of­fence is al­leged to have oc­curred be­tween March 14, 2014, and Ju­ly 24, 2015, and that the last date co­in­cid­ed with the six-month lim­i­ta­tion pe­ri­od.  

The pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry in­to See­ta­hal’s mur­der be­fore Ce­de­no has al­ready reached an ad­vanced stage. 

The DPP’s Of­fice was rep­re­sent­ed by Tra­vers Sinanan while Mario Mer­ritt rep­re­sent­ed the group. 

Reporter: Derek Achong