Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Beef up security for prosecutors


Mark Fraser

When I opened the Express newspaper website on the Internet yesterday I was met with the shocking headline “BREAKING NEWS - Dana Seetahal murdered”. When I went on to the read the article that followed, shock gave way to anger that so distinguished a lawyer — a “Silk”, former parliamentarian and newspaper columnist, was taken from us in such a brutal way.

In my own limited professional dealings with her she demonstrated to me a love for the rule of law in T&T and I would place her in the category of a patriot. Her published book, Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure, was yet another distinction, starting a process of serious academic works from Caribbean jurists. This too has been stolen from the people of the Caribbean with her murder.

Whilst I can readily understand that murder most horrid is nothing new in T&T, the obviously planned killing of such a leading citizen raises questions that strike at the very heart of the criminal justice system in T&T. I for one would like to know what security she had bearing in mind the risks associated with prosecuting the high profile case she was involved in.

Indeed, I recall the late Karl Hudson-Phillips QC explained to me that the reason he had security in 2007 was because he was prosecuting a similarly high profile case involving the infamous Robocop, along with Messrs “Skelly” and “Sneeze”. Similarly, Sir Timothy Cassell QC had security provided to him when he was retained to prosecute Dole Chadee.

I have long advocated that the criminal justice system in T&T needs root and branch changes. And with the murder of a Silk who was engaged in prosecuting a major criminal case there must be added to that list of required changes the need to assign robust and effective round-the-clock security for prosecutors engaged in such serious and high profile matters. The need for this has been categorically demonstrated with the killing of Dana Seetahal. No lengthy review is required before action is taken. The need for it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. The Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard must take the lead on this now.

If these steps are not immediately taken the consequences include that trials will be derailed, lawyers will refuse to prosecute certain cases and ultimately judges and juries may become too fearful to sit to hear these kinds of cases. This must be avoided at all costs. And when it comes to money, no amount is too great to ensure the criminal system works. This is the kind of commitment the T&T taxpayer not only expects, but demands.

The criminal elements in T&T have long dictated the pace of criminal justice in T&T. As for the state of emergency called by the Government, if anyone was in doubt about its necessity, they should be in no doubt now. Indeed, to ensure that these murderers are caught I would favour a similar lockdown to allow the police and the army the advantage in hunting down those responsible.

Anand Beharrylal

London, UK