No move to embarrass CJ

Attorney defends clients’ action:

By Denyse Renne

Attorney Criston Williams has said it was never his clients’ intention to embarrass Chief Justice Ivor Archie when letters were written on their behalf questioning delays in their appeal judgments.

Speaking with the Express yesterday, Williams, an attorney for the past four years, said the purpose of a pre-action protocol letter is to identify the issues in dispute and establish whether litigation can be avoided.

“If the intent was to embarrass the Honourable Chief Justice or to have him impeached or investigated then the letter dated November 26, 2013, would have been drafted differently and we would have rushed and filed an action or made a complaint,” he explained.

He added: “It is not, nor has it ever been, my client’s intention to embarrass the Honourable Chief Justice or the judiciary. Conversely, as an officer of the court I will never encourage any such intent.”

Williams said the basis on which he became involved in the matter stemmed from “issues of prisoners in the Remand Yard and the delay that accused persons face”.

“Prisoners’ concerns are all hinged mostly on one issue, delay. So if a prisoner seeks answers to his constitutional rights, what am I to do? Not enquire as to the reason or reasons as a holistic interpretation of my letter would reveal.”

Williams sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Solicitor-General’s office threatening to file a constitutional motion against Archie and the judiciary because the delays allegedly breached his clients’ constitutional rights.
Both convicted men — Lester Pitman and Gerald Wilson —have been awaiting judgments in their cases for three and four years, respectively.

In a second letter, to the Supreme Court Registrar last Thursday, Williams said he intended to send a complaint to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, asking her to exercise her discretion under Section 137 of the Constitution.

This section deals with impeachment proceedings against a CJ.
The letters have caused a stir in legal circles.

Williams said yesterday the letter sent to the Registrar was simply out of courtesy “and to highlight the delay that permeates throughout the entire legal system of Trinidad and Tobago”.

The Express asked about the rationale behind singling Archie out, given the fact that two other judges also sat on the panel alongside him.

Williams explained, “Initially when the letter dated December 5, 2013 was drafted, it included all three judges that sat on the appeal panel. However, upon the advice and the settling of the said letter by a leading public law counsel in the United Kingdom he decided that it should be addressed to the head of the quorum. It was also hoped that, in that vein, right-minded, thinking persons would not view the said letter as an attack against the judiciary or any particular judge.”

Williams said people should separate the issue from their own personal thoughts, adding, “Let us all address the issues that we face in an attempt to have a better legal system.”

Asked whether it is his clients’ intention to write to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar seeking her intervention in the matter, Williams said no such instructions have been given by them.

In an interview with the Express last Friday, Court Protocol Manager Jones P Maderia said the letters are engaging the attention of the CJ.

According to court documents, Pitman’s case was reserved on March 4, 2010, by a three-judge Appeal Court panel comprising Archie and Justices Paula-Mae Weekes and Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.

Judgment was reserved in Wilson’s appeal on November 10, 2009, but to date the judgments have not been handed down, despite the men being incarcerated on Death Row.

In 2004, Pitman was convicted alongside Daniel Agard for the murders of agriculturist John Cropper and two of his in-laws, while Wilson was sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of pensioner Esther Mae Vidale, 77.

They are both contending that the delay in their respective criminal appeals has breached their constitutional rights to life, liberty and security and to equality before the law.
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