State of India vs. Richard de Wit (66th Hearing)

Released by Vic Groves, Tuesday 1st March 2016 from London for Immediate Use

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Today represented the 66th occasion upon which the court in Srinagar, Kashmir has convened to hear the above case but, yet again, no progress was made.  As recent reports have shown, this trial has seriously stalled and all efforts to kick-start it have failed - only one witness has been processed since 13th June 2015 – almost 9 months ago. 

The main reason for this lack of progress has been the irrational behaviour of the accused, Dutchman Richard de Wit, who has dismissed his legal team on a total of four occasions, the last such occasion being 29th December 2015.  In addition, the judge, Mr Ali Rashid Dar, has recently been ill and, is now on leave until 5th March and was, therefore, unable to preside over today’s hearing.

Following the last hearing on 12th February, efforts have continued in the background to persuade the defendant to appoint a credible defence lawyer.  To date, even the efforts of a fellow Dutchman – a fully qualified lawyer who lives in Holland, and who recently spent 10 days in Srinagar accompanied by Richard de Wit’s mother and eldest daughter - have not succeeded in doing so.

Reports received at the end of last week from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London based on reports from the British High Commission in New Delhi suggested that Richard de Wit had, in fact, appointed a new lawyer who was based in Srinagar.  It has not been possible to confirm or deny whether this report is true.  There was no evidence in court today in support of this claim.

Recently and increasingly, doubts are being expressed about Mr de Wit’s worsening mental state of health and, although it has been mooted before, there is now a very real chance of him being found ‘unfit to stand trial’.  The official approach in such circumstances would in all probability be for the case to be suspended until he is deemed to have recovered sufficiently to continue with the trial.  Clearly, this would be a highly undesirable state of affairs for a number of reasons including the fact that he may never recover to that extent and because the outcome remains wholly in doubt and inconclusive in the meantime. 

It is understood that, in addition to trying to resolve the legal issues referred to, efforts are under way to assess professionally the extent of Richard de Wit’s mental state of mind and further pronouncements on this will be made in due course.

Meanwhile, the next hearing date has been set for Tuesday 15th March but an immediate adjournment will be requested by the Dutch lawyer referred to above if he is unable to attend in person.  In this event a further hearing date will be set for the first week of April when he will be hopes to be able to attend accompanied by two Dutch medical specialists, in an effort to resolve all outstanding issues – legal and medical.  Only at that time will we know whether or not the trial will go into further abeyance or will be re-started.

This trial commenced on the 3rd June 2013.  Of the 46 witnesses listed on the charge sheet, exactly half have yet to be processed. These mainly comprise police, forensic, medical and legal experts plus one witness who may have a direct influence on the outcome of the trial.  He is Mr Ashok Singh, the taxi driver first summoned to appear on 28th March 2014 but who, for one reason or another, has not yet been brought before the court.  Mr Singh was in the process of driving Richard de Wit from Srinagar to Jammu on the night of the crime when the Police instructed him to divert into an en-route police station.  Clearly, he may have crucial evidence about the defendant’s general appearance, behaviour and frame of mind.  In addition, at least four witnesses who have already been cross-examined are scheduled for re-call by the new defence counsel when appointed.  This leaves 27 witnesses to be processed or re-processed through the court.

For Sarah’s family, events are now becoming unbearably protracted especially as there are doubts about whether or not Richard de Wit is the guilty party.

A further release will be sent out if there are any significant developments on any of the matters referred to above.  Meanwhile, the web site of the Sarah Groves Foundation now contains full details of the court case: www.sarahgroves.org/overview/court-case/#court-case  

For further information, please contact Vic Groves on VicGroves@Outlook.com or on mobile +44 7781 156743

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