Ex-minister to escape sanctions in the House?
Ria Taitt Political Editor
Former justice minister Herbert Volney is unlikely to face any sanctions from the Parliament for breaching his undertaking to proclaim the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act only after all the infrastructure was in place to implement the law.
Parliamentary sources said there was nothing in the Standing Orders or Mays Parliamentary Practice which dealt with the issue of assurances or commitments to the legislature. “There is nothing which speaks to the issue of undertakings or to sanctions when they are not upheld,” a source stated.
The source said it would be very difficult to make a case for contempt of Parliament or to successfully argue that the Minister misled the Parliament. “You would have to prove wilful intent to mislead and it would be very hard to connect all the dots in this respect,” another source stated.
In winding up the debate on November 18, 2011 in the House of Representatives, Volney, stated: “This Bill has a clause that will take effect by proclamation. Like the Civil Procedure rules, you cannot just pass the rules and implement them without putting in place the measures, the human resources measures, all those sort of things before you implement it. ... We will put in place what needs to be put in place.
“First, for example, the Attorney General will have to bring a measure to amend the Supreme Court of Judicature Act to allow for the appointment of a number of masters. ... As it stands, there are a number of vacant posts of Judge of the Supreme Court. ... The (Criminal Procedure) rules. ... As we speak the judiciary through the Rules Committee, headed by the Chief Justice ... they have been working on the criminal rules that will accompany this measure. ... That will come but we must first pass this measure. ... So while this measure can work without rules because it establishes a framework, I can assure members opposite that nothing is going to be proclaimed before all the necessary measures required to make it succeed happens.”
Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert, who drew reference to the undertaking, stated: “I am holding the minister to his words; I took careful notes, ... Let me quote him correctly. He said , ‘Once all the procedural and administrative mechanisms are in place, the bill will be proclaimed’. I am taking the minister at his word that the legislation will not be implemented until the necessary systems are in place.”
However, sources said more important that the issue of contempt of Parliament was the timeline of Section 34.