Fraud Trial Over Fake Degree Claim Now Set For 2020


Tribune Staff Reporter


A DATE in 2020 has been set for a man’s trial alleging he used fraudulent documents to secure his admission to the Bahamas Bar.

Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain said Shavon Bethel will stand trial on January 22 next year on 10 criminal charges stemming from his alleged fake certifications.

The case was due to be heard on Monday, however, Crown attorney Patrick Sweeting told the court the lead prosecutor, Darnell Dorsette, was mourning the death of a close family member.

According to a Court of Appeal ruling on the matter, Bethel was called to the Bahamas Bar on August 14, 2013.

Bethel allegedly claimed to have been awarded an LLB law degree by the University of London. To back up this claim, it is said he produced fake degree certificates dated March and July 2005.

The claims were made in 2006, when he applied to become a student member of the Inner Temple and was also used when he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 2013.

However, the Bar Association would later obtain a letter from the University of London that asserted that a Master’s degree in Law and a Bachelor’s degree in Law presented from that institution were forgeries, information that did not come to the attention of the Bahamas Bar until a month after then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, now an appellate judge, made an order for the Bar Association to provide Bethel with documents that were crucial to him practising as a criminal attorney in the Bahamas.

According to the Court of Appeal ruling, after he was called to the Bahamas Bar, Bethel’s employer at the time, Terrel Butler, by way of letters dated September 23 and 26, 2013, wrote to the Bar Association for a certificate of good standing and a bar identification card on his behalf.

According to the ruling, the documents Bethel requested are necessary for lawyers to practise in the Bahamas, particularly those who practise in the criminal courts. This, the ruling said, is because of an apparent policy at police stations for only persons who possess a Bahamas Bar ID card can be allowed access to their clients.

However, Ms Butler did not receive an acknowledgment or reply to any of those letters.

On October 1 of that year, Ms Butler sent another letter to the Bar Association referring to her previous letters and advising that she did not receive an acknowledgment or reply. However, she got no reply to that letter either.

After not getting a reply from the Bar Association, Bethel filed an application for judicial review asking the court to grant him a declaration that he was entitled to receive the certificate and the ID card.

When the matter came on for hearing before then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs in November 2013 there was no appearance by or on behalf of the Bar Association, the respondents in the matter. As a result, the matter was heard in their absence, and Bethel was granted the declarations he sought.

Elsworth Johnson, then the Bar Association’s president, was served personally with a copy of the November 2013 order that was endorsed with a Penal Notice; however, there was a refusal to comply. An amended order was granted by the court on November 14 of that year, fixing a time of three days for Mr Johnson to comply.

Mr Johnson was served with a copy of the amended order and yet again, he refused to comply. As such, Mr Johnson and the Bar Association did not issue Bethel the documents.

In December 2013, Bethel again approached the court to have Mr Johnson and the Bar Association committed for contempt. The respondents appeared and resisted Bethel’s application, and also filed a summons seeking to have the court’s order set aside on the grounds that Bethel had secured admission to the Bahamas Bar by using fraudulent documents.

Justice Isaacs did not make a finding of contempt, but instead ordered that Bethel be provided with the certificate and the ID card. The judge also dismissed the Bar Association’s summons.

The Bar Association consequently appealed Justice Isaacs’ decision to dismiss its summons. That appeal remains outstanding.

Meanwhile, Bethel was charged before the Magistrate’s Court with four counts each of possession of a false document and uttering a false document; deceit of a public officer; and perjury. Mr Johnson was listed as a witness in the matter.

When the case commenced before the magistrate, Bethel took issue with those proceedings on the basis that they were an abuse of process because the basis for those charges had already been raised or could have been raised in the December hearing.

The magistrate consequently stayed the proceedings to allow Bethel to contest the charges.

Subsequent to that, Bethel applied to the Supreme Court seeking a permanent stay of the criminal proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court, however, the application was dismissed by the judge.

Bethel unsuccessfully appealed that decision, thus paving the way for his impending trial in the Magistrate’s Court next year.

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