QC: Volney did not mislead colleagues
PORT OF SPAIN — British Queen’s Counsel Edward Fitzgerald has suggested that former justice minister Herbert Volney did not mislead his cabinet colleagues on the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act.
Fitzgerald also said in February last year the Director of Public Prosecutions told the government businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh were among those who stood to benefit from Section 34. Fitzgerald, who is leading Ferguson’s legal team, made the statement while delivering opening submissions in a civil lawsuit.
Ferguson, Galbaransingh and others are challenging the repeal of the controversial legislation in September last year. Section 34 would have allowed them to have their cases dismissed.
Fitzgerald said: “You cannot impugn the character of the minister of justice (Volney) without showing proof that he made misrepresentations to cabinet.”
He said when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar fired Volney last year, she provided no evidence or details of how Volney misled her and his other colleagues.
When she announced Volney’s removal as a minister on September 20, she was quoted as saying: “The minister had a duty to faithfully and accurately represent the position and views of the Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions and he failed so to do and the Cabinet, relying in good faith, acted on his assurances.”
Referring to the minutes of a meeting of legal and judicial stakeholders which included Volney, Gaspard and Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Fitzgerald said no one raised the issue of the early proclamation of the legislation being unlawful.
Fitzgerald also submitted that there was no parliamentary oversight in the passing of the legislation, as suggested by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan when the issue was first brought into the media spotlight.
He said several members of both Houses raised valid objections when the legislation was being debated in late 2011. He said during the debate, Volney reminded Parliamentarians repeatedly that the provisions of Section 34 only excluded violent crimes and allowed for white-collar offences, such as fraud.
“Parliament, with its eyes open, conferred rights to the claimants, and with their eyes open they took these rights away,” Fitzgerald said. (Guardian)