Ashan Westcott was on Wednesday June 26th, 2024 set free in the High Court, after his attorney, Israel Bruce, successfully made a “no case submission.” A ‘no case submission’ is a legal argument asserting that the prosecution had insufficient evidence to warrant a trial or conviction.

Upon hearing the submission and reviewing the case, the court agreed that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient to link the defendant to the crime.

Presiding judge, Justice Stanley John, therefore instructed the nine-member jury to return a not-guilty verdict due to this lack of direct evidence. Addressing the jurors, Justice John stated that they had no discretion and must return a not guilty verdict for Westcott under the circumstances.

Since then community members have expressed their outrage over the acquittal and are calling for justice for Nikera Smith. Many of whom stated that such acquittals happen too often in the Virgin Islands.

The officers involved in the murder investigation of Nickera Smith recently gave an unsettling recollection of how her body was discovered in the area of Hawk’s Nest back in 2016.

Smith’s body was found on March 30th, 2016, roughly two months’ after she went missing in the Hawks Nest area. Ms. Smith, who worked at Colonial Insurance BVI, was reported missing by her family on Jan. 29th, 2016. The 22-year-old was last seen leaving her home in Hope Hill on Jan. 27th, 2016.She was described by loved ones as a kind and loving individual.

The judge noted that the life of a young woman had been tragically ended and he sympathised with the victim’s mother. He said that while the verdict brings a sense of unease, it was his duty to consider the evidence presented by the Crown and determine whether it could lead the jury to a reasonable conclusion.

Westcott, who has been on remand since February 2020, was immediately released thereafter.

The Crown was represented by Director of Public Prosecutions Tiffany Scatliffe who immediately filed an appeal.

According to the appeal document, the prosecution also felt there was a “miscarriage” of justice in not leaving the matter with the jurors, whom he had instructed to enter the not-guilty verdict. Among other things, the DPP argued further that “there was sufficient evidence submitted by the prosecution for a jury…to return a verdict on a lesser offence.”

The DPP argued that it is of “public interest” for the decisions of Judge John to be reviewed, adding that she does not believe Westcott would be prejudiced in this matter now being appealed.

The DPP argued in her appeal that Justice John erred in disallowing certain aspects of the testimony from one of the prosecution’s key witnesses in the case — Detective David Moore. The DPP also argued in her appeal that Justice John erred further by applying “incorrect principles” in arriving at his decision to uphold the defense’s no-case submission.