Defence Attache case : Magistrate overturns conviction | Sunday Observer

Defence Attache case : Magistrate overturns conviction

The Chief Magistrate of London and Wales, has overturned the earlier conviction on former Sri Lanka’s Defence Attache Brigadier Priyanka Fernando noting procedural mistakes in the earlier hearing.

When the case was heard at the Westminster Chief Magistrate’s Court on Friday, the Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, after defence submissions, expunged the conviction on the former Lankan diplomat and fixed the case for retrial on May 7, 2019.

Defence counsel Nicholas Wayne made an application under Section 142 of the Magistrate’s Court Act to have the conviction set aside over procedural mistakes and the Chief Magistrate had agreed with his argument, foreign media reported.

Brigadier Fernando was found guilty of making cut throat gestures at a group of pro-LTTE protestors during Independence Day demonstrations outside Sri Lanka’s Mission in London in February last year. The case was initiated as a private prosecution by the protestors and he was convicted in absentia on January 21, 2019 under the Public Order Act by the Westminster Chief Magistrate.

The case was re-opneed when counsel Wayne, argued Brigadier Fernando cannot be prosecuted as he was covered by diplomatic immunity under Vienna convention. But the Chief Magistrate at a February 1, 2019 hearing rejected this argument that his diplomatic immunity covered such offensive hand gestures.

A Foreign Ministry source said that it looked forward to the retrial in May and stated it will not issue a comment at this stage. It was not immediately clear if Brigadier Fernando will be required to appear before courts at the re-trial.

International Centre for Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide (ICPPG) said it will continue to facilitate and provide legal assistance for the prosecutors. The private prosecutors were represented by Peter Carter QC leading Shanthi Sivakumaran, an ICPPG statement said.