Categorized | News, Regional

Bar Association defends chief magistrate over ‘ALP Six’ ruling

Antigua Observer

By Martina Johnson

Commissioner of Police Vere Browne has been condemned for his alleged attack on the judiciary following his recent call for the dismissal of Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh and an investigation into her decision to discharge a case against several political figures.

The criticism comes from the Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association in a press statement issued late yesterday, following an emergency meeting of its members on November 6.

The association said it deems the commissioner’s public objections to the case dismissal as “reprehensible and unbecoming.

“The ABBA wishes to put on public record that it takes a dim view of the stance taken by the commissioner of police against the chief magistrate and sees this as an unfounded attack on the judiciary, of which the magistracy is an integral part.”

The row began early last month, when Magistrate Walsh dismissed a case against six Antigua Labour Party (ALP) members, including party leader Lester Bird, chairman Gaston Browne, St Peter MP Asot Michael, ALP St Paul representative Paul Chet Greene, ALP General Secretary Mary Claire Hurst and ALP executive member Carlton Lake, who had allegedly breached the Public Order Act.

Commissioner Browne said the rationale behind the dismissal – request by a prosecutor for an adjournment, due to the absence of the lead prosecutor who was on vacation  – was “woefully unreasonable.”

He took to OBSERVER Radio’s Snake Pit programme to report the police had done all they could to ensure the case was completed in a timely manner while there were many occasions when adjournments were granted because defendants were absent; needed time to attend other matters; or the magistrate was away.

The commissioner had stressed that what was allowed for one should have been allowed for all, including the prosecution that was seeking an adjournment for the first time since the case began over a year ago.

The association however, lambasted the chief of police over “his appearance on a radio talk show to ventilate his views on this matter that is irregular and ill-conceived especially as it comes from the arm of the state.”

The Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association said the magistrate is entitled to exercise discretion in dismissing any matter before the court and it “does not entitle anyone, including the commissioner of police,” to bring the adjudicator and the office into disrepute.

In closing, the association said it would stand not “silently by” and allow an assault and unwarranted conduct against any member of the judiciary by any member of the public, even where such an assault comes from another arm of the state.

Last month Commissioner Browne had written to Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Anthony Armstrong asking that he exercise whatever power he had to dismiss the magistrate and appeal her decision.

The DPP had however indicated he had no authority to sanction the adjudicator.

Armstrong had also said the Magistrates Code of Procedure Act, 2004 outlines very limited circumstances for which an appeal is allowed and the current matter does not fall within those circumstances

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Antigua Observer

By Martina Johnson

Commissioner of Police Vere Browne has been condemned for his alleged attack on the judiciary following his recent call for the dismissal of Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh and an investigation into her decision to discharge a case against several political figures.

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The criticism comes from the Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association in a press statement issued late yesterday, following an emergency meeting of its members on November 6.

The association said it deems the commissioner’s public objections to the case dismissal as “reprehensible and unbecoming.

“The ABBA wishes to put on public record that it takes a dim view of the stance taken by the commissioner of police against the chief magistrate and sees this as an unfounded attack on the judiciary, of which the magistracy is an integral part.”

The row began early last month, when Magistrate Walsh dismissed a case against six Antigua Labour Party (ALP) members, including party leader Lester Bird, chairman Gaston Browne, St Peter MP Asot Michael, ALP St Paul representative Paul Chet Greene, ALP General Secretary Mary Claire Hurst and ALP executive member Carlton Lake, who had allegedly breached the Public Order Act.

Commissioner Browne said the rationale behind the dismissal – request by a prosecutor for an adjournment, due to the absence of the lead prosecutor who was on vacation  – was “woefully unreasonable.”

He took to OBSERVER Radio’s Snake Pit programme to report the police had done all they could to ensure the case was completed in a timely manner while there were many occasions when adjournments were granted because defendants were absent; needed time to attend other matters; or the magistrate was away.

The commissioner had stressed that what was allowed for one should have been allowed for all, including the prosecution that was seeking an adjournment for the first time since the case began over a year ago.

The association however, lambasted the chief of police over “his appearance on a radio talk show to ventilate his views on this matter that is irregular and ill-conceived especially as it comes from the arm of the state.”

The Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association said the magistrate is entitled to exercise discretion in dismissing any matter before the court and it “does not entitle anyone, including the commissioner of police,” to bring the adjudicator and the office into disrepute.

In closing, the association said it would stand not “silently by” and allow an assault and unwarranted conduct against any member of the judiciary by any member of the public, even where such an assault comes from another arm of the state.

Last month Commissioner Browne had written to Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Anthony Armstrong asking that he exercise whatever power he had to dismiss the magistrate and appeal her decision.

The DPP had however indicated he had no authority to sanction the adjudicator.

Armstrong had also said the Magistrates Code of Procedure Act, 2004 outlines very limited circumstances for which an appeal is allowed and the current matter does not fall within those circumstances