Joyann Pratt, the Chief Magistrate, ruled that Frank Smith, former Senator, had no case to answer in the extortion and bribery case brought against Mr. Smith by the FNM Government. Here is some of what the Magistrate had to say in her own words:
1 February 2019
Nassau – Only Bahamas Press now has what Joyann Ferguson-Pratt had to say as she handed down the ruling in the Frank Smith case this afternoon.
Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt in her ruling this afternoon said, “There is not a scintilla of evidence to support the fact that there was a meeting between Barbara Hanna and the accused prior to the award of the contract.”
She added that the former PHA Chairman has been acquitted of all charges.
In her ruling she wrote: “That is to say the 13 counts of extortion, the one count of attempted extortion and the one count of bribery pursuant to section 203 of the criminal procedure code.”
The Chief Magistrate thanked counsels on both sides for their persistence in this matter, which began in August 2017, running to the present date.
She told the court that when she took her oath of office more than eight years ago, she made a solemn promise not to mortal man to serve in her office “without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”
Citing that this case is the first high profile case which involved a Senator and Chairman of a Government Corporation, she said, “The procedure that was adopted in this case as revealed by the evidence in my view was wholly inappropriate, to state it mildly.”
The Chief Magistrate explained the egregious nature of the case as she cited how a serving Member of Parliament and a sitting Cabinet Minister entertained a citizen, who had previously given him campaign money on his own admission. “This was said under oath!” she exclaimed.
Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt went on to say, “Added to this, the citizen had a pending application before the PHA and on the evidence he awarded her the contract and not the board.”
Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt pointed to how the Cabinet Minister then spoke to his colleague, the Minister of National Security who was responsible for the Police who are charged with investigating crimes.
Pointing to records in the case, Ferguson-Pratt said, “Leading counsel for the Crown asserted that the Minister may have [and I quote] found a more discreet venue to meet the virtual complainant other than his constituency office. No doubt admitting that this conduct raises the appearance of this to a political favor.”
The Chief Magistrate added, “The conduct of the Minister responsible for the Police agreeing to meet the complainant instead of directing his colleague to refer the complainant to the Commissioner of Police is unorthodox to say the least.”
Expressing her concerns, Magistrate Pratt reminded the court of the ancient maxim which states “Justice must not only be done… it must be seen to be done,” and expressed her hope that something like these egregious actions are never repeated again.