Wednesday, February 21, 2018

No ‘fear factor’ in making decisions

Judiciary knocks Senate comments:

 The judiciary has said it is “deeply disappointed” over statements ema­nating from the Senate last week, inferring judges and magis­trates consider what has been termed during the deliberations as the “fear factor” in making their decisions, including the granting of bail to accused people.

In a statement yesterday, the judi­ciary said, “The particular comments, which the judiciary finds offensive, an affront to the administration of justice and extremely unfortunate, were made during deliberations on the Bail Amendment Bill. They have been recorded in the Hansard of the Parliament and have also received prominent coverage in the national print and electronic media. In addi­tion to being without foundation, these utterances are irresponsible, dangerous and can only serve to under­mine public trust and confidence in the institution and its officers.”

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and two Independent senators last week cited the “fear factor” as a pro­bable reason why some magistrates and judges consistently granted bail to seasoned criminals and habitual offenders.

Speaking in the Senate, at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, on Tuesday, during the committee stage of the Bail Amend­ment Bill—which was later passed—Ramlogan justified the need to remove judicial discretion and replace it with the no-bail provision for “serious, dan­gerous and violent” crimes. 

The Attorney General said under the existing law, judges were required to consider a number of things, inclu­ding the nature of the offence and the seriousness of the offence, in granting or not granting bail.

 “Yet you have a set of bad boys outside there, and the nature of offence is robbery with violence, car stealing, arson, they burning down people, all these serious offences and they out on bail.”

The judiciary said: “It should be pointed out that even before judges and magistrates assume office, the Constitution demands that they swear to an oath or affirm solemnly that they will bear true faith and allegiance to Trinidad and Tobago and will uphold the Constitution and the law, that they will conscientiously, impartially and to the best of their knowledge, judgment and ability discharge the functions of their office and do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of Trinidad and Tobago, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

It added: “The Constitution is cate­-

gorical that such an officer shall not enter upon the duties of his office unless he or she has taken and sub­scribed to the oath of allegiance and the oath for the due execution of his or her office. 

The judiciary does not have a

his­tory of its officers breaching their oath out of fear and assures the

national community that it will con­tinue steadfastly, scrupulously and rigorously to ensure adherence by judicial officers to those enshrined principles that govern their practice.”

The judiciary statement said it

“rejects the related sentiments and

the innuendos that attended the deliberations of the Senate last week,

and calls for introspection and a deep-

er understanding and ap­preciation of the potential damage that such statements, uttered especially by our leaders, could have on institutions such as the judiciary that are duty-bound to discharge their functions to all citizens without fear or favour.”