Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DPP 'acted against laws of natural justice'


'Abuse of process': Senior Counsel Sophia Chote, one of the attorneys representing applicants challenging the repeal of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, leaves the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, yesterday. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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SENIOR COUNSEL Sophia Chote, the attorney representing former chairman of the Airports Authority Ameer Edoo in the Section 34 constitutional motion, yesterday accused Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, of stepping outside of the constitutionally created boundaries of his office.

Chote said Gaspard, by playing a role in having the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 amended, and the controversial Section 34 repealed retroactively to deprive certain individuals, including United National Congress financiers Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, of the right created when the act was proclaimed, acted unlawfully and contrary to the laws of natural justice. She said the court should consider it an abuse of process.

Edoo is one of several persons who have been charged with fraud-related offences arising out of the Piarco Development Project. Together with several of his co-accused and others who have been similarly charged in other fraud-related matters, Edoo sought to take advantage of the legislation which provided for persons, charged indictably with certain offences beyond a period of ten years, to apply to a judge to have their matters dismissed.

"What is curious is that the Director was notified of the application," Chote said.

"The Director did nothing to suggest to Mr Edoo that he was not entitled to (have his matter dismissed under Section 34). The Director did not write the Registrar of the High Court asking for the matter to be listed so that the matter could be legislated before the court. What the Director was doing was communicating behind the scenes with the Attorney General to change the law to see that the claimant is deprived of his relief."

Chote's submission was interrupted by attorney Ian Benjamin, who is representing the DPP in the matter. Benjamin told Justice Mira Dean-Armorer several aspersions have been cast by Chote on the DPP, and asked that she rely on the evidence and not abuse the privilege of the Bar table.

Responding to Benjamin, Chote said Benjamin was perhaps being overly sensitive and that she was simply laying out the chronology of events which led to the constitutional motion being filed. Chote said the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act was passed in Parliament since December 2011.

"About nine months later, the DPP is making it clear that what took him by surprise was the proclamation (on August 31, 2012) of Section 34. But there is nothing in his press release or his affidavit to suggest that he did not know what Section 34 contained.

"There was no reason one could infer that the Director, who is attending meetings where Section 34 is directly addressed, who engaged in correspondence with officials from the Ministry of Justice, would not know of the contents or the impact of Section 34.

"What prompts the DPP into action was the receipt of an application from one of the Piarco defendants. When one looks at all the evidence, it is clear that the primary concern of the Director was not all 47 cases which he had referred to when he wrote to the Minister of Justice, but the application of Section 34 upon receipt of an application by one of the Piarco defendants."

Chote said it was wrong for Gaspard to suggest to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan that Government should change the law when he (Gaspard) is a party to the criminal proceedings involving those who made Section 34 applications.

She said the amended act, which removed the right created by Section 34, was a rushed job created to deprive persons of their rights.

On September 13, 2012, the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act was amended by Parliament and Section 34 was repealed. The Minister of Justice, who piloted the legislation, former high court judge Herbert Volney, was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for misleading Cabinet prior to the Section 34 of the act being proclaimed.

The trial continues today.