Judge warns lawyers as squabbling gives his court a circus air

Four days into the trial and the judge had clearly had enough.

“All of you stand up,” Mr Justice Prithviraj Fecknah ordered the lawyers.

“I want to address you.”

Senior and junior defence and prosecution counsel sheepishly got to their feet.

The rest of court fell silent — a rarity in recent days in Port Louis’s criminal court.

The latest judicial intervention in the Michaela McAreavey case came after a highly verbal clash between defence lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry and state prosecutor Mehdi Manrakhan.

“I thought we had sorted this out,” the exasperated judge said sternly, referring to previous admonishments.

“It was clear that these kind of personal exchanges are not going to be tolerated. I would ask Mr Teeluckdharry to contain yourself and your emotions, and I would ask state to intervene [only] when it’s strictly necessary.”

The bid by the senior defence barrister for Avinash Treebhoowoon to probe the sex life of the Co Tyrone honeymooner unsettled many in court, with some visibly outraged by the line of questioning.

The fractious wrangle with Mr Manrakhan that ensued saw the court adjourned for a period. Mrs McAreavey’s sister-in-law Claire took the opportunity to stepoutside.

After the hearing, Mr Teeluckdharry defended his approach in one of the many ad hoc news conferences he and colleagues hold outside court during breaks.

One local news outlet has been holding a text poll to establish whether the public believe the defendants are guilty or not.

In another interview in the yard of the Supreme Court, Mr Rutnah rejected claims that his cross-examination technique is overly flamboyant.

And he was not the lawyer who got a laugh in court earlier.

When questioning a police mapper on the dimensions of his drawings, Rama Valayden, counsel for co-accused Sandip Moneea, thought it appropriate to quip:“Size matters.”

The turn of phrase brought the expected chortle from the public benches, but, unlike previous days, it was not allowed to go unchecked.

Perhaps cognisant of adverse coverage in Ireland of the repeated outbursts in court, a clerk was swift to take action.

“Shush,” he hissed. “Silence.”

The rain that poured down on Port Louis on Thursday gave way to intense sunshine on the last sitting of the trial’s first week.

Some found it uncomfortably hot in court, the thick curtains that block out thewindows behind the two impassive defendants acting like a warming blanket for the room.

Whether it was the heat or the temperature of the legal clashes with the prosecution, proceedings clearly had taken their toll on Mr Teeluckdharry.

When the judge indicated his intention to wrap up half an hour early at 3pm, he made a special request.

“Can we break at 2.30pm?” the lawyer enquired. “I am feeling exhausted.”


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