They're prosecuting Jeff
It appears Principal Jeff Broomes is being “prosecuted” at the Commission of Enquiry into the school he heads and his legal team at the tribunal wants to know why.
On the principal’s third day of evidence today at the investigatory commission into the administration and management of the Alexandra School, his counsel Cecil McCarthy, QC, supported by his senior Vernon Smith, QC, made that complaint.
McCarthy said he had “the impression” that the commission’s senior counsel Milton Pierce’s line of questioning to his client was tantamount to prosecuting at a trial.
But the claim was dismissed by both Commissioner Frederick Waterman and Pierce himself, who said the aim was to solicit answers and get to the bottom of problems at the St. Peter school.
It took place this morning at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex as the commission lawyer continued to lead Broomes in his evidence.
“I have seen all of the witnesses being led, including and more particularly the deputy principal, and the tone and approach is considerably different and … I get the impression that this witness is not being fairly given an opportunity to tell his story,” McCarthy said.
“We have other counsel here who have their roles to play… All I am saying is that in the heat of the moment sometimes we can mistake things.
“I sat here and I saw how the evidence was elicited from all witnesses and I haven’t seen this approach other than to probably Roger Broomes and I am concerned. This is a public hearing and we have to appear to be fair to witnesses. I am concerned about it and I want to draw it to your lordship’s attention,” the lawyer told Waterman.
The commissioner responded: “Mr. Pierce is an exceptionally mild mannered person and I would not allow Mr. Pierce, and Mr. Pierce would not allow himself, to be a prosecutor in here. Mr. Pierce knows his boundaries, we all know our boundaries.”
“I am just drawing your attention how it comes over to me,” McCarthy said. Smith then pointed out that earlier at the enquiry he had voiced concerns that Pierce was approaching his task as a prosecutor.
“I would have expected counsel would respond, but now apparently he is going back to that. One of the principles of the evidence being given here is not to make anybody a criminal or look like a criminal,” Smith said.
Waterman countered that at times he had seen counsel go overboard with certain witnesses.
“All my examination I have not tried to impute anything unfavorable to them (witnesses), I have never tried to make out anybody was a liar or anybody did anything criminal,” Smith said.
Pierce said he was surprised that he was being accused of prosecuting Broomes, saying “as I understand it, Sir, my role is to assist yours commissioner in arriving at the evidence”.
“I see it, Sir, that one has to try to arrive at the truth and I do not think in asking the principal questions, which I feel would assist the commission in arriving at the truth, I don’t see how my colleagues can talk about prosecuting because there were witnesses for Mr. Broomes I led them the same way,” he said.
“I have nothing either in favour of or against Mr. Broomes, I am simply asking things that are within his knowledge and which I think he should share with the commission and I don’t think that is prosecuting anybody.” (SC)