By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St Kitts, November 19, 2019 – The only “sin” that Constable Lennox Hodge committed 415 days ago on September 19, 2018 (Independence Day), was that he was seen in a vehicle on his day off with the Leader of the Opposition, the Rt Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas and two other St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) parliamentarians – Hon Marcella Liburd and Hon Konris Maynard.
It was Constable Hodge’s off-day and he travelled to St Kitts and used the occasion to drive Dr Douglas to the Independence Parade to mark St Kitts and Nevis’ 35th Anniversary of Independence at Warner Park.
The tremendous applause received by Dr Douglas from the crowd as he made his way to the vehicle at the end of the Parade, reportedly incensed the Office of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Office of the Attorney General and an investigation was immediately ordered into how Dr Douglas was allowed to join the official convoy with the other dignitaries including the Governor-General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Appeal and High Court judges.
After the ceremonies, Hodge returned to Nevis on Wednesday night, September 19, 2018.
On Thursday 20 September 2018, Hodge was requested to return to Basseterre and report to the Traffic Department at the St Johnston Police Station.
Hodge, with 17 years of service in the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force, was then taken to the Basseterre Police Station where around 5 pm he was served with a Warrant for his arrest on the alleged charges.
His lawyers requested bail, but even station bail, which is normal, was denied and Constable Hodge was held in a prison cell at the Basseterre Police Station in full police uniform from the night of Thursday 20th September 2018 to the morning of Friday 21st September, 2018. Without being afforded a bath and a change of clothes, Constable Hodge was taken before the Magistrate’s Court where he was granted EC$10,000 bail. He was immediately suspended and placed on half-pay.
The matter came up for trial on October 4 and again on November 29, 2018 but the police prosecution was not ready to proceed as they were still awaiting legal advice from the Office of the Director of Police Prosecution and the matter was further adjourned to March 14, 2019. However, on Thursday, December 12, 2018, as one of his lawyers, Angelina Gracey Sookoo-Bobb, was leaving a High Court on the second floor, she heard Hodge’s name called for his immediate appearance in the Magistrate’s Court on the ground floor.
Moving quickly into the courtroom, Sookoo-Bobb informed Magistrate His Worship Reyneld Benjamin that she had received no communication from the Police Prosecutors informing her that the March 14, 2019 trial date was brought forward. Hodge was also not informed of the new date. The Magistrate then indicated that the March 14, 2019 date stands.
In January 2019, another attempt was made to try the case without informing Hodge and his lawyers, on the grounds that the defence had requested an early trial, but this was denied by the defence.
At the March 14, 2019 trial, Police Inspector and Head of the Traffic Department, Carl Caines, gave evidence and was cross-examined by attorney Sylvester Anthony. Hodge was not called to give evidence.
At the end of the hearing Magistrate Benjamin indicated that he will submit a written transcript and invited both parties to return and make submissions.
At Tuesday’s trial, Mr Anthony went through the court-submitted transcript of the March 14 hearing and pointed out several inconsistencies in the evidence of Inspector Carl Caines.
In his no-case submission, Anthony submitted that the prosecution had failed to provide evidence that Hodge was seen driving, failed to give evidence that Hodge was not covered by insurance and that Hodge was officially notified that he was under investigation. Mr Anthony also submitted that Hodge was never cautioned, had never signed a confession and that Sgt McGuire who was with Caines when Caines spoke to Hodge at the South East Peninsula on the afternoon of September 19, was not called to the stand to give evidence as a witness and made available to the defence.
The Police Prosecutor had no real response and agreed with the Magistrate Benjaimin that there was no evidence that Hodge was seen driving.
Senior Magistrate Benjamin in accepting the no case submission of Mr Anthony said it was “the right thing to do.”
“I cannot reserve my decision. I accept the no-case submission. Case dismissed,” said Senior Magistrate Benjamin.
Hodge has a sister who is a sergeant in the force with 21 years of service and a brother, also a sergeant with 19 years in the force.