Former Montserrat chief minister on sex charges

(CNS) – A High Court judge has sought to place a ban on public comments regarding the trial of former chief minister, David Brandt, who has been remanded into custody on sex-related charges involving minors.

Last week, Justice Gareth Evans, revoked his bail after agreeing to adjourn the matter to November 18 this year.

Media reports said that the judge had decided to remand Brandt to prison to counteract four years of stall tactics by Brandt’s attorneys and as a result he could possibly remain in custody until the next court hearing.

In a statement issued by the Registrar of the High Court on behalf of the judge, reference was made to the “number of comments and statements made in the press and on social media” about the trial.

“On Montserrat, there is a small community and David Brandt is a famous figure. It is inevitable the community will be interested in his trial, now due in November. However, all members of the public must avoid making supportive or negative public statements in the media about Mr Brandt, or disparaging statements about the trial in general,” the statement noted.

It reminded the population that a “person accused of any crime in this jurisdiction is not tried by things said in the press or social media, but in a court of law, with a jury drawn from the community, who must be unbiased, and that means they must be unaffected by what is said by others, which includes in the press or social media.

“This important principle of fairness applies to David Brandt as it does to every other member of the community. On Montserrat, we must all ensure that he gets a fair trial.”

The statement said to ensure this, “there must be no further comment, either in support or against, in the press or on social media about this case.

“Any further comment will be brought to Mr Justice Evans QC’s attention for consideration of whether contempt of court proceedings are warranted. Any such proceedings will involve consideration of punishment including imprisonment.”

The statement said that the judge has also “directed that such comment as there has been, which has been collected into a file, must now be investigated by the police and the DPP as possible contempt of court”.

Brandt, who served as the sixth chief minister of this British Overseas Territory from August 22, 1997 to April 5, 2001, had been charged in 2015 with two counts of conspiracy to have sexual intercourse with a minor. The allegations date back to 2010. He was released on EC$20,000 bail.

In November 2018, Brandt was arrested again and subsequently charged with two counts of child sexual exploitation and one count of perverting the course of justice.[ He was released on EC$90,000 bail.

The former chief minister, who is also a prominent lawyer here, has in the past described as “totally false” the two sexually related charges laid against him by the police.

In September 2015, speaking on the state-owned ZJB radio, Brandt, who is in his late 60s, said, “I am not guilty and in the fullness of time it will be shown that I am not guilty”.