Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Devon Dick | Minister of justice and DPP very wrong

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 12:08 AM

Last week, the utterances of the minister of justice and director of public prosecutions (DPP) in the wake of the arrest of former minister of education and principal of Jamaica College, his wife and daughter, plus president of the Caribbean Maritime University, as well as a JLP councillor, seem very wrong.

A minister of justice should tread carefully in criticising and possibly undermining the operations of the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance and Public Service, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division. Furthermore, the minister seemed to have usurped the role of the prime minister, who is the only one who should speak on behalf of the government on a police operation. Therefore, an apology is not enough. The PM needs to disassociate the government from the comments of the minister of justice and also put the minister on probation, like what he appears to be doing to the Cabinet minister assigned to education.

For the minister of justice to state that the operation was over the top shows selective justice. In June 2013, Justice David Batts ruled that the police force has no power under the Road Traffic Act to arbitrarily stop and search motor vehicles, but it continues and not a word from the minister.

Finally, the minister likened the operation to a Nicodemus in the night procedure. Nicodemus was a holy man seeking after truth and answers from Jesus (John 3: 1-12). So, ironically, the minister was on to something profound in claiming that the police behaved like Nicodemus in the night because the police force was searching for further truth and more answers. However, the popular understanding of the ‘like Nicodemus in the night’ is someone engaged in a sudden, shameful and suspicious attack under the cover of darkness. And if the police is likened in that way, then is the minister likening the accused persons to Jesus?

And to compound the problem, the DPP claimed that she was not consulted before the operation, but there is no legal requirement to do so. Unhelpful information. However, the investigators, based on good governance and precedent, did consult earlier with the DPP and was given guidance as to what else was needed. Therefore, it could be assumed that the investigators, having ticked off those things that needed to be done, thought they had complied with the office of the DPP. Perhaps they felt any further delay would be dangerous.

It was equally baffling to hear the DPP state that the defence lawyers can ask her to review the case and she could then legally intervene. Why state that? Thankfully, there was a former member of the office of the DPP, Caroline Hay, QC, who provided useful and helpful information in interviews with TVJ All Angles with Dionne Jackson Miller and on Nationwide. She wisely recognised the role of the Parliament and social media in seeking answers separate and apart from the police investigations. Hay also explained the nature of the serious charges, including misconduct in a public office at common law, which is very interesting. Others included breaches of the corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Another unhelpful action by the DPP was in earlier this year, providing an interim report into the investigations claiming that there were possible criminal, common law charges and more investigations were needed. An interim report was unheard of and unnecessary and could compromise the case. That was a major blunder and the DPP should recuse herself completely from the case and ask a senior DPP to handle it.

 

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.