Lawyer Pile loses CCJ appeal, must remain in jail for theft

Attorney Vonda Pile has lost her final chance to challenge her conviction and must remain in jail for stealing money meant to buy land for her client.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) last week refused an application by the convicted lawyer for special leave to appeal the decision of the Barbados Court of Appeal to affirm her conviction and three-year jail sentence.

On June 5 2019, Pile was found guilty by a 7-2 majority jury verdict of stealing $191,416.39 (US$96,008.22) from former client Anstey King between April 29, 2009, and October 26, 2010. She was acquitted on the charge of money laundering. The money was for the purchase of land.

In September 2019, trial judge Justice Pamela Beckles sentenced Pile to three years in prison, less 94 days.

She was later granted bail after filing an appeal.

But after over a year on bail, Pile was sent back to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, on July 16 this year, to serve the remainder of the sentence after the three-member panel of Appeal Justices Rajendra Narine, Francis Belle and Jefferson Cumberbatch unanimously affirmed the jury’s guilty verdict and the trial judge’s jail sentence.

Following that decision Pile through her legal counsel Andrew Pilgrim QC signalled her intention to take the matter before the CCJ – Barbados’ highest court.

The application was filed on August 30 and Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney and Senior Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas responded on September 16.

The CCJ rejected Pile’s appeal, stating that upon considering the “cogent and comprehensive” reasons for the Court of Appeal’s decision “there is no realistic possibility that a potentially serious miscarriage of justice may have occurred, and that given the proposed grounds of appeal no point of law of general public importance has been raised . . . . The application for special leave to appeal is refused”.

The convicted lawyer will remain at HMP Dodds until her sentence is completed.

The sum of money for which Pile was convicted was part of a larger amount for the purchase of land at Maxwell, Christ Church.

During the trial, it was revealed that King had sent the deposit and purchase money to Pile with whom he had previously done business. He subsequently came to Barbados but after seeing the land said it was not the plot that he had agreed to buy and asked for his money back.

Pile returned some of the funds but after several demands for the rest, King took the matter to the police.