Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Editorial | DPP, corruption prosecutor can coexist

Published:Wednesday | May 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Whatever other view may be held of Paula Llewellyn, it's beyond debate that she is among the most engaged of Jamaica's public officials, ready, as was the case with Trevor Munroe this week, to defend her actions and openly debate them with critics.

Indeed, we doubt that in the history of the post there has been, in that respect, as open a director of public prosecutions (DPP) as Ms Llewellyn. But, like Professor Munroe, the head of the anti-corruption lobby, National Integrity Action (NIA), and notwithstanding Ms Llewellyn's robust defence of her record and lecture on due process, this newspaper does not believe her office is as aggressive as it might be in going after corruption-related cases that come before it.

For while the DPP stressed that most of the lagging criminal cases to which Professor Munroe made reference were not "mainstream" corruption matters, but mostly related breaches of the Contractor General Act, we believe that given Jamaica's real and perceived crisis of corruption, no matter is ever too small to deserve the highest and most resolute attention. In sending the signal of a national intolerance of corruption, it ought to have been policy that all corruption-related matters exercise the attention of the Office of the DPP, no matter the jurisdiction of the court in which they are heard.

It is in part because we sense a lack of either ownership or full embrace of what we would wish to be a crusade against corruption by the ODPP - taking into account the limits of the law and the protocols by which that office must abide - why we support the proposed legislation for a single anti-corruption agency, with its own, and independent, prosecutor.

In the bill that is now before the Senate, that prosecutor will not be subject to the direction of anyone, but for the fact, as Professor Munroe pointed out, that the DPP, at Section 94 of the Constitution, has superseding powers not only to "institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person in any court", but also to intervene, or "discontinue at any stage before a judgment is delivered", in cases instituted by other persons.

 

A call for amendment

 

Implicit in such constitutional powers and of concern to the NIA is that a DPP could impede a case by the proposed corruption prosecutor. So, while he does not believe that the possibility should be allowed to prevent the new anti-corruption law, Professor Munroe has suggested that over the longer term, Section 94 of the Constitution be amended to limit the powers of the DPP.

Thus far, the NIA has not articulated precisely what should change. Perhaps there is much in the section that should be. But it is a matter on which we should proceed with caution, after a full, robust debate.

Jamaica's Constitution provides substantial insulation for the DPP, ensuring the independence of the office, thereby shielding its holder from direct political interference. In Jamaica, the DPP is her own boss, not "subject to the direction or control of any other persons or authority". In several Caribbean countries, the DPP is subject to the attorney general, with the potential for partisan concerns to affect that relationship.

Any attempt to fix perceived flaws in Jamaica's arrangement must take care not to weaken what is good. With regard to the concerns raised by Professor Munroe of the possibility of the DPP impinging on the corruption prosecutor, it might be possible when the latter office is established for there to be an MOU between them recognising the ODPP's constitutional powers but establishing a framework for their use in corruption cases.