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QC: Govt wasn't wrong to amend act, repeal section

THE lead attorney representing the Attorney General in the Section 34 constitutional motion is contending Government did nothing wrong when it moved to amend the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 and repeal the controversial Section 34.

Lord David Pannick, QC, yesterday said Parliament breached no constitutional provision, whether expressly or implied, when Section 34 was repealed with retroactive effect on September 13, 2012.

Pannick made the statement during his oral submissions before Justice Mira Dean-Armorer at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

"It is not the function of the court to address (its mind to) whether Parliament acted too speedily when it implemented the Amendment Act," Pannick said.

"This court is concerned with the constitutionality of the content of the Amendment Act and does not sit to assess the adequacy of the parliamentary process."

The original 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 ten years, to apply to a judge to have their matters dismissed.

A total of 37 applications were made by several companies and individuals, including businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh, Steve Ferguson, financial director of Northern Construction Ltd (NCL) Amrith Maharaj, former government ministers Brian Kuei Tung and Sadiq Baksh, and former chairmen of the Airports Authority Tyrone Gopee and Ameer Edoo.

Pannick said the applicants have complained that Parliament, by seeking to remove the rights created by Section 34, was interfering in the judicial process.

"The claimants cannot have it both ways. They cannot say on one hand that it is a breach of constitutional power for Parliament to intervene in existing criminal proceedings and then say, at the same time, (that they are relying on the provisions of Section 34 which was created by Parliament intervening in existing criminal proceedings)."

Pannick said Section 34 was not repealed to specifically target individuals charged in the Piarco Airport Development case. "(The amended Act) is general both in its terms and effect."

Pannick is expected to continue his submissions when the trial resumes today.

—Keino Swamber

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