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DPP wary of misinformation, misrepresentation of facts

DPP wary of misinformation, misrepresentation of facts

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Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams has said he will not remain silent and allow misinformation to spread, in relation to why he took the decision to discontinue private criminal proceedings brought against three Government ministers.{{more}}

In a call-in programme on WE FM on Sunday, January 16, Williams spoke for about 30 minutes on the roles of the DPP and prosecutors; what he considers to be the circumventing of the authorities by lawyers representing the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP); and the “abuse” of the Criminal Code.

“If I stay silent, those who do not know, those who are spreading misinformation and misrepresenting the facts, their opinions will always rise and be circulated. I have the facts, I have the information; nobody did not come and ask me anything,” said Williams.

The DPP’s call came on the heels of his decision on Thursday, January 13 to discontinue criminal proceedings brought against Ministers Clayton Burgin, Dr. Douglas Slater and Cecil McKie, for statements they are alleged to have made during the recent elections campaign.

The following day, against a wave of criticism by some persons, the DPP’s Office issued a press statement, which explained why he took the decision to discontinue the charges against the ministers, having examined and reviewed the evidence.

Williams said the prosecution’s evaluation of cases is governed by a Code for Crown Prosecutors. He said this country is the only state within the Eastern Caribbean with such a code which tells prosecutors what are the tests that should be applied in assessing cases.

He told his audience that he discontinues matters because if he assessed the evidence and it did not meet the threshold, “then there is no need to allow a person to be harassed, to be provoked or molested in any way, simply by the process of the Criminal Law”.

He outlined that when someone is charged under Section 51.3 of the Representation of the People Act, which refers to an election offence to any person before or during an election, one must first ask, what is considered to be “before or during” an election.

“Does it mean everyday of the year…? An election in St.Vincent and the Grenadines occurred when we had fifteen elections on December 13. Right, so it is clear when is election in reference to the Representation of the People Act. And before an election then, what it conceivably means, when the election is announced, which is or which was in the case of St.Vincent and the Grenadines on November 14, 2010. So when a person is charged for allegedly even saying to an individual sometime in October certain things, how could that charge stand?” asked Williams.

He pointed out, secondly, if a claimant is alleging that a person has said certain things in terms of a charge, the individual cannot infer what they believe them to say. “Put the words that they said!”

“The allegation against Dr. Slater was that on a public broadcast he said that he can confirm that [Nigel] “Nature” [Stephenson] did not turn in his Nomination papers himself; that somebody else did that. He got an agent to do so. Then he goes into a discussion on the phone programme with the callers on a number of issues in which they touched on a number of things which came out of something that Wade “Kojo” Williams wrote. But the charge is that you take that aspect of what Dr. Slater said in the very beginning …and you carry it to the extreme that he is inferring Stephenson committed this particular offence, when that was not said at all by the speaker,” said Williams.

Referring to the indictment signed by Chief Magistrate Sonya Young against the ministers, the DPP stressed that because a magistrate signs an indictment, it does not mean that the individual in question must be prosecuted.

He said that during the last Assizes, certain statements were made at the commencement of a matter, but after it was recognized that there may be question marks over the evidence at a later stage, the matter was discontinued.

Williams said during the course of 2010, prosecutors in St.Vincent and the Grenadines have discontinued numerous matters. He said he was there when a number of these matters were discontinued. He added that he has discontinued charges brought against people for murder and, as recently as December, discontinued two murder charges.

“Nobody buss a pepper, as we say in St.Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said of one the murder charges he discontinued that had been brought against a client of Kay Bacchus-Browne, a member of the NDP’s legal team in this matter. He said over 14 cases brought were discontinued last year. (HN)

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