The Eric Sommer case has evoked a response from National Security Minister, Victor La Corbiniere, who in response to questions from members of the media today indicated that it was untrue to suggest that the matter was heard in record time.
“To suggest that on that day his case was somehow catapulted to the top – this is absolutely untrue, because his matter had been sitting in the court, as you know, for a long time and in fact that is very much in the public domain,” the Minister asserted.
La Corbiniere said Eric Sommer’s case came up before the courts on a number of occasions over an extended period of time.
While indicating that he is not responsible for managing cases, the Minister said that the courts deal with such matters in the context of what is happening on the day in question.
“My sense is that a certain plea was taken from the gentleman on that day in question and the court acted appropriately, which they are required to do for any other person in the given circumstances,” Corbiniere told members of the media today.
The Minister, who is an Attorney at Law by profession, noted that there was an indication of the number of postponements or adjournments that took place.
He recalled that the French Ambassador here, Eric de la Moussaye had raised some concerm in relation to the number of adjournments that had taken place.
La Corbiniere said:
“If you look at the adjournments, you would see that a number of things were happening.In some cases his own Counsel sought them and there were adjournments to facilitate the availability and exchange of documentation for the defense, while in a few instances it related to the difficulties we have had with the court.”
The Minister explained that if the adjournments were disaggregated and the reasons were examined, the notion that the matter had languished because the courts were closed or because of some inherent failure would prove untrue.
Asked about suggestions that Eric Sommer may have been wanted in his native France for crimes, La Corbiniere revealed that while there was no extradition arrangement with the French, a backing of warrants act does exist.
However he told the media he had not seen any application from the French in that regard.
“Most of these matters come through the Attorney General’s office. I don’t want to say there is no such request. It has not come to my desk,” La Corbiniere said.
Eric Sommer was set free after being sentenced this week to time served for the drowning death of Saint Lucian, Lucas Francois, whom he allegedly pushed off a boat and ignored his pleas for help.
The incident occurred on May 12, 2012 at Pigeon Point.
After serving four years in jail on a murder charge, the Frenchman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter which the Prosecution accepted.
The case has drawn public criticism over the perception that the French national’s matter appeared to have been expedited under pressure from the French government, while a number of Saint Lucians are languishing in prison waiting for their cases to be concluded.
Constitutional lawyer, Martinus Francois described the situation as a disgrace and a sad day for justice in Saint Lucia, while Human Rights Activist and Attorney at Law Mary Francis told the Times that locals in prison need someone to champion their cause as was obvious in the Sommer case.