all set: State attorneys, from left, Gerald Ramdeen, Tom Richards and Lord David Pannick arrive for yesterday's hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain in the constitutional motion challenging the repeal of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act. –Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

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Lawyer: Gaspard's input not improper

IAN Benjamin, the attorney representing Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC, said yesterday that it is implausible for anyone to argue that Gaspard was abusing his powers when he advised Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to take steps to retroactively repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.

Benjamin said no allegation of Gaspard interfering in the legislative process was made when he was asked by former minister of justice Herbert Volney to have an input into the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 when it was in its embryonic stages.

Addressing Justice Mira Dean-Armorer in the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain on the final day of the Section 34 constitutional motion, Benjamin said should the court find the repeal of Section 34 to be lawful and constitutional, it would then follow that any input Gaspard made could not be deemed improper. He said even if the repeal was found to be unconstitutional, Gaspard's advice to the Attorney General would still be in keeping with his mandate to give advice and make recommendations in matters which affect the administration of criminal justice. Section 34 of the Act was proclaimed by President George Maxwell Richards on August 31, 2012 and created an avenue for persons charged indictably with certain offences, including fraud, beyond a period of 10 years, to apply to a judge to have their matters dismissed.

Several applications were made by companies and individuals including businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson, financial director of Northern Construction Limited (NCL) Amrith Maharaj, former government ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Sadiq Baksh, former chairmen of the Airports Authority Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo, who are defendants in the Piarco Airport Development case.

Applications were also made by several individuals charged in other fraud-related matters.

Their attorneys re-emphasised yesterday that their clients are entitled to have their matters stayed on the ground that the amendment to the Act is unconstitutional. They said even if the amendment is found to be constitutional, the applicants should still enjoy the benefit of a stay of proceedings as any further prosecution would constitute an abuse of process.

Dean-Armorer again assured the attorneys that her judgment in the matter would be delivered no later than March 28.

In court The case: Before the court is a Constitutional motion challenging the repeal of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act. The Act was proclaimed by His Excellency George Maxwell Richards on August 31, 2012 and paved the way for persons, charged indictably with certain offences beyond a period of 10 years, to apply to a judge to have their matters dismissed. Offences not covered under Section 34 were contained in Schedule 6 of the Act and included murder, manslaughter, kidnapping for ransom, rape, grievous sexual assault, sexual assault with a female under the age of 14, incest, buggery, trafficking in persons, possession of a dangerous drug for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of a firearm. The Section was repealed on September 13 during an emergency sitting of Parliament. Judge: Justice Mira Dean-Armorer Court: Port of Spain High Court at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain. The legal team for the applicants includes: Edward Fitzgerald, QC, Michael Beloff, QC, and Fyard Hosein, SC, Sophia Chote SC, Vijay Deonarine, Neisha Abiraj, Robin Otway and Cherise Huggins. The legal team for the Attorney General includes: Lord David Pannick, QC, Allan Newman, QC, junior counsel Gerard Ramdeen and Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, Kerri-Ann Oliverie and Rene Singh.  Attorneys for the Director of Public Prosecutions: Ian Benjamin and Samson Wong.

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