The country’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong will return to court in Jamaica on November 16 with his lawyer Hugh Wildman who intends to make submissions as to whether further charges proffered against his client should stand.
When Armstrong went before the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on Thursday morning, the clerk informed the court that three counts of uttering forged documents and three counts of forgery had been added to Armstrong’s initial charges of conspiracy to defraud and fraudulent conversion.
The additional six charges are in relation to the instrument of transfer for each of the three properties that Armstrong apparently sold without the consent of his then client Michael Adams.
Eighteen years ago, while Adams was in prison, Armstrong, a Jamaican national, allegedly sold three of his client’s properties and signed documents on behalf of his client who was not present at the time. Michael took the case to the General Legal Council (GLC) in Jamaica and, in February 2022, the council handed down a guilty verdict against Armstrong for professional misconduct.
Armstrong’s attorney, who was unaware of any new charges prior to the court hearing, asked Parish Court Judge, Venice Blackstock Murray, to set a time and date to entertain submissions as to why these charges should be stayed or quashed.
The submission was allowed with the condition that Armstrong’s passport be retained. His bail has also been extended until the next hearing on Wednesday.
The new charges announced are of a committal nature which means that if they stand in the Parish Court, there is a chance that they will form part of the case against Armstrong and his ex-client. Committal charges, if deemed appropriate by the lower court, are sent to the High Court for trial.
But Wildman has insisted that those charges should be handled by the Parish Court. In fact, he summated that there was “malicious intent” in proffering the additional charges.
“From I heard about that charge I knew exactly what they are trying to do. It goes to show that the charges and the entire case is a very sinister one. What they are trying to do is work their way as they go along to make life uncomfortable for Mr Armstrong,” he told the judge.
The court’s clerk said, however, she had only received the additional information that morning and that the charges were added based on further review of the case.
She also indicated that there is another accused person who was charged in connection with the same matter. The clerk identified the second accused as a woman, telling the court that “what she has been charged with are committal offences”.
“The Crown was of the view that since it is that these allegations rose from the same series of facts, it would be very hard under these circumstances to separate the offences,” she said.
She added that the matter is closely connected in terms of what took place based on the allegations and therefore it would be hard to separate both matters. With that information in hand, she said the Crown would seek to make an application for the matters to be joined.
In rebuttal, Wildman argued that neither he nor his client were ever party to those proceedings involving the second accused, so those parties should not affect their standing or position.
After hearing both arguments, Judge Blackstock Murray eventually scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday, where both the Crown and the defendant will give reason as to why or why not the additional charges should proceed.
The additional information for the offence of forgery is expected to be listed when the hearing resumes. If the charges are based on Jamaica’s forgery act, the High Court would have jurisdiction.
Armstrong was previously granted leave to face the charges. Shannon Jones-Gittens – a senior crown counsel for more than 12 years – has been appointed Acting DPP in his absence.