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MP accuses Queen’s Counsel of being ‘unprincipled and unethical’

MP accuses Queen’s Counsel of being ‘unprincipled and unethical’

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A senior lawyer has denied allegations that he represented the Government in a recent application made by a New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate which sought to have certain ballot boxes removed from the custody of the Supervisor of Elections and delivered to the Registrar of High Court.{{more}}

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT last Wednesday, Parnel Campbell QC responded to the accusation of NDP parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown St Clair Leacock in which he (Leacock) criticized Campbell for representing the ruling party in the court matter in question.

“I’m not on the Government’s pay roll in this case,” insisted Campbell. “I was not even in court when the matter was argued. I went the first morning when Mr [Anthony] Astaphan couldn’t make it.”

He further explained: “He (Astaphan) called me and asked me to do what is called ‘hold papers’ for him. That is, to go in the court and say ‘Mr Astaphan represents the Government, he cannot be here and so on…’ but I took no part in the hearing. I wasn’t paid for my services.”

Campbell did, however, admit that he advised the Government on the court matter because his professional opinion had been requested.

“I gave them some of my opinions, which I do every Monday night through the length of the nation… How come all of a sudden now they discover they should quarrel about me giving to the Government? The advice I gave was not to the party itself – the distinction must be drawn between dealing with a party and dealing with a government. As far as I am concerned we have a duly elected government in office, and I gave advice to the Government, not to ULP.”

While speaking on Nice Radio’s ‘New Times’ programme last Wednesday morning, St Clair Leacock launched a scathing attack on Campbell, who was the NDP’s parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown from 1987 to 1998 — having first won the seat in a by-election after the death of his predecessor, Edward Griffith.

Describing Campbell’s involvement in the court matter as “unprincipled and unethical”, Leacock told listeners: “When I think back to the days and the weeks and hours and time I spent at his (Campbell’s) feet, recycling meetings, and I had to witness this, I feel like puking.”

He added: “I hope Vincentians never restore faith in Campbell. I hope the newscasters would write that out – I hope we really never, ever restore faith in Campbell.”

Leacock further said that because of Campbell’s past and present actions, he cannot speak of Campbell in the “same wealth that he speaks of me today”.

“I say that because you have to be the most unprincipled and unethical person to have seen the demise of your political party – for which you were a chairman, and your personal involvement caused your party to go into opposition – and in 2015, you could find the means and the ways and the time and the effort and the passion to represent the ULP in the court case against the party that you led into Opposition.

“I find I would always have a vision of Campbell… of being unprincipled. I don’t care how much PC, QC, DC he has; he is unprincipled. I never ever want that to happen in my life. If I ever reach that stage, I resign from politics if I can’t give my best to the political party and the principles that I support. I can’t come like that. I pray God it is never allowed to happen like that,” Leacock declared.

Describing Leacock’s stance on the matter as “tribalism”, Campbell requested that the following statement be published in its entirety:

“Up until your phone call I had not been informed that the Honorable St Clair Leacock had made those remarks concerning me. I thank you for having brought the matter to my attention. St Clair is a brother for whom I have abundant respect and affection. He was one of my strongest supporters when I was in active politics, indeed, he was practically my campaign manager in my last elections in 1998. I, therefore, find it easy to forgive him his trespasses against me; even as I reject the allegations you have reported him as having uttered. As a lawyer, I think I have the right to decide what advice I should give, whether or not the advice is paid for or is freely given. In the case under review, I had not been ever retained by the New Democratic Party to give them advice; nobody in NDP had ever asked me for any advice whether legal or political. So, I find it strange that complaints had been made about advice I would have given to anyone else. Nobody in the NDP could say they have paid me for anything and I took their money and I didn’t give them their advice. So that, I find it utterly odd that I should be accused of whatever he accused me of as if they paid me and I turned my back and didn’t do their work. I am a free person, a free lawyer, and I have the right to give whatever legal advice I want to whomever I want and nobody can challenge me for that.”

Campbell further asserted that he is against any form of tribalism as it means once a person is branded as supporting a particular political party, you belong entirely to said ‘tribe’.

“That is one of the matters I stand resolutely against, and an intelligent person should be free to discuss matters with any side and to give advice to any side. I don’t see that anyone in the New Democratic Party should feel that I should be bound not to say anything to the other side or not to give advice to the Unity Labour Party…

“It’s strange that NDP should be saying that when the NDP led the charge against the constitution I tried so hard to have adopted. I give six years of my life to an effort, and NDP practically told the country: ‘don’t bother with Campbell – what he is proposing is rubbish. His advice should not be regarded as being valid, forget about Campbell, he is bringing a constitution which is no good’… So, how all of a sudden now they feel my advice is so valuable that they should quarrel if I’m giving it?

Campbell further noted: “And just as I came, I did give some free advice to the New Democratic Party, when I advised them not to carry out the threat of the boycott on my programme… I noticed that afterwards Mr Eustace got the same advice from his other lawyers and said they would now be sworn in, they would change their mind about the threatened boycott. So, they got free advice from me even though it was not asked for. But in the interest of themselves and the nation, I thought it incumbent on me as a person commenting on legal matters, particularly where they touch and concern national issues, to come out and say what my view of the law was. And I continue to do that Monday night after Monday night.” (JSV)

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