THE 88TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 88TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

Released by Vic Groves, Thursday 16th February 2017, Guernsey.

Judge Losing Patience with Man Accused of Sarah’s Murder

This Media Release relates to hearing number 88 in the above trial which took place earlier today in the District Court, Srinagar.

This was another unsatisfactory hearing although there were signs that the judge is becoming progressively more impatient with the defendant’s ‘delaying’ tactics.

The medical report referred to at the last hearing appears to have been glossed over. The Jail Superintendent recommended that Richard de Wit should receive psychiatric help. Although the current Superintendent is relatively ‘new in post’, this is a statement of the obvious which has been known throughout the trial.  Richard de Wit has refuted this prognosis and refuses to accept any form of medical treatment.  It would appear, therefore, that he is deemed fit to continue standing trial.

The major problem remains his lack of legal representation.  In court, he requested copies of all court papers relating to the prosecution witnesses heard so far.  He claims to be able to represent himself in court provided he has a full understanding of the case history.  In his own words ‘I am mentally strong but physically weak’.

The judge ordered the court to share all the documents of the case with him so that he could either find a lawyer or prepare a case for himself. (He can be seen leaving the court with the papers in the attached images). The consensus is that he is not mentally capable of defending himself, which will perpetuate the logjam now faced in this trial unless an outside lawyer is appointed. The judge ordered him to resolve this matter but these are empty words as such orders are never enforced.  He also implied that without a lawyer, the case could well go against him.

He went on to suggest and name a local human rights lawyer who may be able to help but Richard de Wit countered by saying that he trusts no-one and that previous lawyers have not represented him well. There is considerable truth in this assertion as the standard and level of witness cross-examination has been lamentable.

At the last hearing on 31st January, the defendant stated that he wanted ‘to talk to Sarah’s parents’ because he had a ‘secret’ to disclose.  He claims to have new information for our ears only.

Since then, we have been trying to establish the nature of the information he has.  We have decided that, whereas we are anxious to know the details, we cannot afford the time and cost of going to Kashmir ‘on a whim’.  In other words, we are willing to go out at very short notice (visas have been renewed) provided we will learn something new.

It is proving very difficult to communicate with the authorities and with the accused in order to establish the facts.  In a conversation with the jail Superintendent, we can visit him in jail (we both have the court’s permission to do this) but we cannot speak to him by telephone.

In a discussion with the Public Prosecutor immediately after today’s hearing, who feels that Richard de Wit is being very un-cooperative, we have since established that he can apply to the court for an order that will allow a telephone conversation to take place.  Efforts will now be made to enable this to happen and a further release will be put out in the event of significant developments.

The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1st 2017 but witnesses will not be summoned unless legal representation of some kind is secured.

Pictures provided by kind permission of Caters News Agency who must be fully acknowledged in any reproduction and / or media use.

For further information: +44 (0) 7781 156743

THE 87TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 87TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

Initial Media Release:

Yesterday was the 87th scheduled hearing of the case. 

The man accused of Sarah’s murder, Richard de Wit, was produced in court for a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes.  However, no witnesses were present for this hearing.

Sitting Judge Rashid Ali Dar and recently appointed public prosecutor Syed Maqbool Ahmed were present in the court but there was nobody present to represent Richard de Wit, who reportedly said he is looking for a lawyer to defend his case but that he cannot find one to do so. 

This impasse must be broken before any further progress in the trial can be made.  It is understood that the judge has the power to impose a defence counsel and this is one of ten recommendations put to him recently in a letter by Sarah’s parents.  The aim of that letter, simultaneously sent to several other senior legal and political representatives, was to ensure that the trial reaches a safe conclusion as soon as possible.

Pictures by Caters News Agency

Pictures by Caters News Agency

Today, the judge commented that: "Richard has to go through regular medical check-ups to keep up with his health and the jail authorities have to make provisions for it.”

This is an important statement because, as the attached pictures show, his health and appearance have seriously diminished since the trial began.  He has been incarcerated for more than three and a half years in far-from-ideal conditions.  It is widely acknowledged that, during this time, his mental health as well as his physical health, has deteriorated.

The next hearing date has been set for Thursday 16th February 2017.

Additional Media Release:

This Media Release is supplementary to release sent out earlier this afternoon (above).

Updated information has been received from the new Public Prosecutor, Mr Maqbool, regarding the defendant’s mental health.  It has been received via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London following contact from their counterparts in Delhi.

The judge has directed the Jail Medical Superintendent to submit Richard De Wit’s Mental Status report before the next hearing.  If he fails to comply, the Jail Medical Superintendent and the Jail Superintendent must be present at the next hearing.

Pictures by Caters News Agency

Pictures by Caters News Agency

Mr Maqbool stated that the case cannot move forward until the defendant’s Mental Status report is submitted to the court or until the Jail and Medical Superintendents explain to the court in person the reason behind not submitting the documents.

In April and May 2016, the court heard a series of arguments about the defendant’s mental state.  At one time, it looked as if he would be declared ‘unfit to stand trial’ but the judge overruled all applications for this because the defendant refused to allow his medical history to be divulged to the court.  The judge had said he would base his decision on those records.  In their absence, he allowed the trial to continue.

This has turned out to be an academic decision insofar as no progress has been made in the trial since that date.

The above does, however, imply that the defendant's mental state will be re-considered.  This may have an important bearing on the future direction and duration of the trial as it is known to have deteriorated since last year.

The next hearing date has been set for Thursday 16th February 2017.

A further communiqué will be issued as appropriate.

Pictures released by kind permission of Caters News Agency

New Public Prosecutor Appointed in the Sarah Groves Murder Trial

New Public Prosecutor Appointed in the Sarah Groves Murder Trial

It has been confirmed that a new Public Prosecutor has been appointed in Sarah's murder trial.

Significant pressure has been applied for some while to replace the existing Public Prosecutor, who has been immensely ineffective in ‘prosecuting’ the case.  He has also been extremely difficult to communicate with.

The pressure referred to culminated in a series of letters being sent by registered mail two weeks ago from the court in Srinagar under our name to all the most senior legal and political figures in Kashmir.

The reasons for the existing Public Prosecutor’s departure are, as yet, not confirmed.

For the record, this will be the third Public Prosecutor in the case to date.

The next scheduled hearing date is set for this coming Saturday, 21st January 2017.  The British High Commission are unlikely to be able to report back on this hearing until Monday 23rd January although we may receive information from another source on the day.

A further release will be issued as soon as possible.

The 85th Hearing in the Sarah Groves Murder Trial

The 85th Hearing in the Sarah Groves Murder Trial

28th December 2016:

This media release refers to the 85th scheduled hearing of the above trial.  It is last one scheduled for 2016 during which 23 hearings were scheduled, none of which recorded any progress whatsoever in the trial itself.

We have received the following communication from the Foreign Office in London:

Frustratingly, although Delhi have managed to talk to the Prosecutor he refused to confirm whether the court had sat today or not, and asked that we call him again tomorrow.

Sadly, this is what we are up against – a total lack of respect for the trial and everything it stands for.

Our thanks go out to everyone who helped to raise the profile of this case within the UK media following the release put out on December 13th.  Since then we have received many offers of support, some of which have already resulted in some very good publicity on ITV, BBC local radio and the UK national press.

We would also like to thank everyone for continuing to support us in what has become a seriously protracted news story.  We wish you a Happy New Year and hope you will continue to support the aim of achieving ‘Justice for Sarah’.

UPDATE 29th December 2016:

This media release provides further information about the hearing scheduled for yesterday.

According to a communication received from the Foreign Office in London, the hearing did not go ahead as planned because the accused, Richard de Wit, has failed to re-appoint any form of legal representation acceptable to the court.

The next court date has been fixed for Saturday 21st January 2017.

A further release will be issued if relevant information is received.

For further information now: 07781 156743

THE 84TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 84TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

The State of India vs. Richard de Witt (84th hearing)

The 84th scheduled hearing of the above case took place today, Tuesday 13th December 2016 in Srinagar, Kashmir

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London have issued the following statement following contact with the British High Commission in Delhi:

Delhi have talked to the Public Prosecutor in Srinagar. He confirmed that today’s hearing did not happen because De Wit did not appear in court. He could not give further details as to why De Wit was not in court, and could not confirm when the next court date is.  He has asked Delhi to call him back later this week to give him time to get more details. Hopefully Delhi will do so tomorrow, [Wednesday 14th December].”

Please note that the words in square brackets have been added for clarity.

It beggars belief that the Public Prosecutor does not know why the person accused of murder fails to appear in court. By all accounts the security situation has improved in recent days and should no longer prevent the transfer of prisoners from the Central Jail to court. Information to this effect was received at the end of last week from a contact who works within the court system itself.

It is unusual for the next hearing date not to be fixed; this is a worrying development. It is unlikely to be before the end of this year.

The case seems to be given a progressively lower and lower profile but unfortunately, all efforts to elevate matters have fallen on deaf ears.  There is some evidence to suggest that the Dutch authorities are taking a greater interest in matters and we are seeking clarification on this.

This is an appeal to everyone receiving this release who works in the UK media to give this case greater publicity. Whereas it receives excellent coverage here in the Channel Islands, it rarely does elsewhere. Sarah was a British citizen who spent 16 of her 24 years in the UK – either at home in Cheshire or at school in Ascot. Our family has and Sarah had many contacts in the North West and in London and the South East.

What is happening here is a disgrace and an appalling reflection on the Indian system of justice. We have received information that the current judge, the second one to preside over the case, is due for retirement in 2017. A third judge will then take over. There is still serious concern about whether Richard de Wit is fit to stand trial. It is also unclear if he has any legal representation in place. As has been stated so many times before, there is a strong possibility, unless something significant happens, that it will never reach a safe and satisfactory conclusion. Hopefully, increased media coverage can prevent that situation from arising.

A further release will be issued when definitive information has been received about today’s hearing and the scheduled next hearing date.

For further information now: 07781 156743

The 82nd hearing in The Sarah Groves Murder Trial

The 82nd hearing in The Sarah Groves Murder Trial

The State of India vs. Richard de Witt (82nd hearing)

Released by Vic Groves on Wednesday, 9th November 2016

The 82nd hearing of the above case was scheduled for yesterday, Tuesday 8th November 2016 in Srinagar.

These days the most reliable reports we receive are via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, which take a day or two to materialise due to time zone differences and problems on the part of the British High Commission in Delhi being able to contact appropriate court officials.

The latest FCO communiqué, received today, reads:

“Unfortunately, and as we may have expected, the court did not sit (yesterday) as De Wit could not be transported to court because of the prevailing security situation.  The next court hearing has been set for (Wednesday) 23 November.”

This represents yet another setback in reaching a safe and acceptable conclusion to a trial that has been under way since 3rd June 2013 or 41 months.  It is particularly upsetting at this time because reports received from one reliable source working within the court system in Srinagar say that the courts are now open again and cases are being heard.

Efforts are continuing in the background to raise awareness within political and diplomatic circles of the unacceptable situation which shows no sign of change.

To repeat statistics quoted before but even more relevant today:

  • Second judge in post
  • Second Public Prosecutor in post with whom dialogue is impossible
  • No identifiable defence counsel in post – when appointed will be the fourth such appointment
  • No witness processed since September 2015 (14 months)
  • 23 out of 46 witnesses still to be heard
  • Repeated efforts to suggest improvements have been totally ignored
  • The accused may yet be deemed ‘unfit to stand trial’
  • The trial has lost all direction and momentum
  • The current unrest referred to shows no sign of abating but is not as bad as it was and should not prevent a prisoner being brought to court

A further update will be released when relevant information becomes available.