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Attorney General to advise Cabinet on Ottley Hall Inquiry

Attorney General to advise Cabinet on Ottley Hall Inquiry

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The Attorney General will have to advise Cabinet on whether or not the Ottley Hall Inquiry should be restarted.

At a press conference yesterday,{{more}} Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said in light of the ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the matter of former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell v Commissioner of the Inquiry Ephraim Georges, the Government has two options.

On December 18, 2014, judgment was delivered by the Privy Council in favour of the former prime minister, who had made an appeal against Georges, citing apparent bias and procedural unfairness. The ruling stated that there was a real possibility of bias on the part of Georges and that he should take no further part in the inquiry. The Privy Council also ruled that Mitchell’s costs be paid.

“Two options are opened from that standpoint of the Government. Either A, let the inquiry as it is, which the last deadline, October 31, expire and not renew it, or to resume an inquiry under a different commissioner to start the process afresh,” Gonsalves reasoned.

“Remember this you know, the Privy Council is about one issue; the question as to whether the commissioner in all circumstances was tainted by a bias so that he ought not to sit any longer on it for Sir James to be recognized. The Privy Council doesn’t say that the Government must stop the inquiry. That’s not before the Privy Council. The Privy Council doesn’t say you shouldn’t have another commissioner who asks Sir James to come and give evidence in relation to the Ottley Hall matter.”

The Prime Minister also noted that one of the principal persons in the matter, former chairman of the National Commercial Bank Richard Joachim is already dead. He further outlined that the preliminary report now has to be read in the context of what the Privy Council has ruled with regard to Sir James.

Gonsalves questioned how these facts would impact the inquiry, should the Government go forward; however, he noted that that decision was now an administrative one.

“There was a body of evidence taken; it’s already there collated. There is a report. So, that body of evidence, that report plus the judgment of the Privy Council can all be studied by the attorney general to see whether or not she would advise transmission of all of those in an administrative sense to the Director of Public Prosecutions and let him look at it,” he said.

“The question as to whether the Government is going to restart an inquiry; I’ve outlined to you some of the challenges there including – in the case of Mr Joachim, who was the chairman of the bank of the time. Mr Joachim is now of blessed memory. He had given evidence before the judge before and the judge had commented on that evidence. So, that’s where we are.”

The Ottley Hall Inquiry started in 2003, under the current administration, in an effort to find out the truth about what took place with regard to the failure of the development project, which began under the James Mitchell administration, and the person or persons responsible and/or the degree of responsibility if any, for that failure.

The inquiry came to a halt in 2007 when Commissioner Georges issued an interim report and called on Sir James to appear before the Commission as a witness.(BK)

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