It’s unfair on the defence, I am against it — Judge
As the assets confiscation hearing of the former Delta State Governor entered its final day, the Judge, His Honour Anthony Pitts, has rebuffed attempts by the British Crown prosecution to change the case upon which the confiscation proceedings have been built from the onset.
Crown Prosecutor, Sasha Wass, in her legal submission had inserted a totally different legal argument which according to the Judge in his ruling on the attempted new insertion by the prosecution said, “the goal-posts have been moved not just offside but off the pitch all together”.
The prosecution’s attempted legal argument which the judge ruledagainst is known as Assumption 72AA 1995, that amended the Criminal Justice Act 1998.
It was a total departure from the legal arguments with which the confiscation proceedings have been approached from the start of the confiscation proceedings, and would have moved the burden of proof to the defendant as against the original case which put the burden of proof on the prosecution.
James Ibori’s lead counsel Mr. Ivan Krolic in condemning the attempted move by the Prosecution to suddenly change their case after the defence and the prosecution have all made their final submissions and closed their cases said, “the crown has effectively ambushed the defence by the inclusion of the “Assumption”: “this is not how to go about litigation, I cannot recall a case where this has happened in the past”.
Admitting to the ambush as claimed by Krolic, the lead crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass said, “I agree it was something that was never raised or enquired about….but what your honour has to decide now, today is what, if any, the prejudice the defendant has suffered and if he has suffered any prejudice, how can it be redressed”.
While submitting on the sudden inclusion of the assumption of 72AA by the prosecution which the judge described as “a game changer”, Kroilc said, “this case has been closed, the crown’s inclusion should not be allowed”.
Ruling against the Crown prosecution, Judge Anthony Pitts further said, “the casual introduction at this stage is a game changer….I think It will be unfair to allow the prosecution to include the assumption and I agree with Krolic tht it will be unfair and unjust to begin the proceedings again, I am not prepared to adjourn this hearing till 2014 or 2015. I do agree with Krolic”.
These proceedings all along have been based on Criminal Justice Act 1998 which places the burden of proof of the allegation against Ibori on the prosecution and this is the manner the hearing has been approached.
However, the sudden inclusion of assumption 72AA by the prosecution in the last minute after the defence has made their submission in the case fundamentally changed the case.
Assumption 72AA puts the burden of proof on the defendant. Meanwhile, the defendant has chosen not to appear personally in court to give evidence and allowing the Assumption 72AA to be effective will have put the case against the defendant, Ibori. for choosing not give evidence in the case