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Bermuda Chief Justice: No new charges in Middleton murder

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Location map of Bermuda.
Image: Vardion.

Despite expressing personal sympathy for the Middleton family, Bermuda's chief justice Richard Ground dismissed, on Friday, an application to re-examine the 1996 killing of Rebecca Middleton.

Seventen-year old Rebecca Middleton, of Belleville, Ontario, Canada had been in Bermuda on vacation when she was raped and murdered. At the time, police had identified two suspects in the crime, 21 year-old Kirk Mundy and 19 year-old Justis Smith. Before DNA test results had been tabled, the attorney general made a plea deal with Mundy in exchange for his testimony against Smith. It turned out that prosecutors didn't have enough hard evidence to connect Smith to the crime and the murder charges against him were dropped. Mundy served 5 years for being an accessory to the crime.

The murder case had garnered significant worldwide attention, even drawing in Cherie Booth QC, lawyer and wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Booth had advocated on behalf of the Middleton family during the recent two-day hearing in front of justice Ground.

In his ruling, Chief Justice Ground explained that new charges would amount to double jeopardy and would violate current law, as there were no errors in a previous review. "I have to declare the law as it is," said Ground in his written ruling. "The [double jeopardy] rule is well established and straightforward...it would require legislation, or possibly the intervention of a higher court to change it."

Since the ruling went against the Middletons, the lawyers representing Mundy and Smith called for their legal fees to be paid by Dave Middleton, Rebecca's father. However, Justice Ground rejected the request. "The applicant has suffered a terrible loss, for which he can never be compensated. He has also suffered a wrong, in the way that this matter was mishandled at the outset," said Ground. "In my view [Middleton] is entitled to explore every reasonable avenue in an attempt to put that right, and I am not going to order him to pay the costs of doing so."

Dave Middleton, revealed that with his own legal bill approaching CA$100,000, an appeal of the latest ruling may be out of reach financially. "The cost just keeps going up. So far we are covering our bills, but will we be able to continue to do that? I don’t know," he told CBC News from his home in Belleville. The Middletons have received financial support in the past by fundraising through the Rebecca Middleton Foundation.

For the next stage in the process, Middleton revealed that the case would reach the Court of Appeal in Bermuda, possibly in November. Should that appeal prove unsuccessful, the case could be brought before the UK Privy Council or the European Court of Justice.

Dave Middleton also suggested that the Middletons would like to retain the services of Cherie Booth for the upcoming appeals. "She’s a big part of how we progress, and I'm very hopeful of that," said Middleton.

Sources