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If DPP could only understand herself

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2015 | 5:00 AMGordon Robinson, Contributor
Cartoon for Saturday, April 25, 2015 Paula Llewellyn, DPP, Shernet Haughton

It's official.

The director of public prosecutions (DPP) is of the view that egregious nepotism by a public officer in high public office is not corruption. I kid you not.

The loud, rumbling noise you hear isn't coming from Caribbean Fault seismic activity, it's a stampede of relatives of MPs, councillors, ministers and mayors to collect their now-pronounced-legitimate political pop-off contract.

In an April 23 press release that defied logic, law and common sense, the DPP, in her usual verbose style, circled every mulberry bush in sight and some unknown to the world's leading cartographers in order to arrive at her conclusion that former mayor Shernet Haughton was safe from prosecution. The press release read as if issued from the Twilight Zone.

You no hear what happen to de obeah man?

You no hear what happen to de obeah man?

Duppy kill 'im.

Duppy kill 'im!

What is Ms Haughton alleged to have done? Anyone just reading the DPP's press release would never know because AT NO TIME during the 13-page release does the DPP set out the actions of which Ms Haughton is accused to lay the foundation for an analysis of the likely application of the law to those allegations if proven. The closest we get to finding out what the allegations are is at page 7 (after reams of legal provisions have been regurgitated without apparent reason, save to disagree with the contractor general):

"In the present scenario involving Miss Haughton's conduct and her recommendation for the award of these contracts to 11 family members and other connected persons, this was nepotism of its most egregious, given the fact that she was serving in high public office. However, be that as it may, there is no law which criminalises nepotism of this kind and character without more."

OMG! Really? Seriously? Do I need to show our learned DPP a specific law for her to accept that nepotism (especially egregious nepotism) by a public officer can amount to corruption? Or, at the very least, is the basis for the issue to be put to a jury for determination? Isn't there a 10-year-old ethics student she could consult?

You no hear what happen to de wicked man?

You no hear what happen to de wicked man?

Reaction kill 'im.

Reaction kill 'im!

Among the myriad quotations from legal sources which overwhelm the press release, the learned DPP quotes from the Corruption Prevention Act itself thusly:

"Section 14

(1) A public servant commits an act of corruption if he ... . -

(b) in the performance of his public functions does any act or omits to do

any act for the purpose of obtaining any illicit benefit for himself or any

other person."

 

NO NEED TOLIST

 

What's an illicit benefit? That same 10-year-old would advise the DPP that, whereas all illegal benefits are illicit, not all illicit benefits are illegal except as specified by law (e.g., Corruption Prevention Act). Therefore, there's no need to list intricate distinctions from statute to statute or olde English case law to olde English case law in order to prove Ms Haughton may have committed an intrinsically illegal act. Once her actions were, prima facie, intended to obtain an "illicit" benefit for anyone, they'd be capable of forming the basis of a corruption charge under the Corruption Prevention Act. Pronouncement of guilt or innocence would be for someone else.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'illicit' (other than as illegal) as "not approved of by the normal rules of society".

The DPP's press release describes Ms Haughton's actions as:

"1. egregious and did violence to the spirit of the Handbook and Code of Conduct for Councillors

2. not only flouted the spirit of the clearly stated policies and regulatory provisions (as outlined above); they were egregious; reeked of nepotism and in our view could be deemed unethical."

You no hear what happen to de greedy man?

You no hear what happen to de greedy man?

Belly workings kill 'im.

Bellyworkings kill 'im!

It seems the result of former mayor Haughton's actions was the award of various government contracts to family members and connected persons. The DPP, in her press release, muses as follows:

"A cynic could not be faulted for wondering if there might not have been some sleight of hand which routed the benefit of these contracts to persons connected to Miss Haughton given the number of contracts that were awarded. This is especially so in light of the fact that all of the contracts were just below the $500,000 threshold."

Yet the benefits obtained by her family members were somehow incapable of even providing reasonable cause to allege they were "illicit". Would benefits obtained by this flawed process be "approved of by the normal rules of society"? What do you think?

You no hear?

An' me hear.

Come over here.

Come mek me tell you.

Then, seemingly exposing an anxiety to avoid prosecuting this case, the DPP resorts to her crystal ball: "In any event, in order to attempt to get the evidentiary material to ground these missing ingredients, the Crown would have to rely on information from these very relatives and other connected person(s) as well as her colleagues within the parish council. It is quite clear from the circumstances outlined in the OCG report that this information would not be forthcoming."

You no hear what happen to de Duncehead Man?

You no hear what happen to de Duncehead Man?

Illiteracy kill 'im.

Illiteracy kill 'im!

Like Michael Jordan, unbelievaBULL! What missing ingredients? Why does the DPP assume the necessary evidence won't be forthcoming? Has she tried? Her very press release stated:

"According to the Special Report, when members of the parish council were questioned, they stated that they were unaware that Miss Haughton was related to persons who form the basis of this complaint."

 

WHAT'S HER BASIS?

 

Obviously, there would be no difficulty obtaining testimony from "her colleagues within the parish council" who, in addition to already testifying before the OCG, apparently had a hand in her resigning her office as mayor. Is this the same DPP who went above and beyond the call of duty to get Rodney Chin to turn State's evidence against Kern Spencer? If there's no sufficient evidence, on what basis did the DPP make the findings of "egregious nepotism"; "violence to the Handbook and Code of Conduct for Councillors" and "flouted the spirit of the clearly stated policies and regulatory provisions"? Rumour?

You no hear what happen to de boasty man?

You no hear what happen to de boasty man?

Society kill 'im.

Society kill 'im.

One of Jamaica's finest musical aggregations was Zap Pow, formed in 1969-70 by David Madden (trumpet), Dwight Pinkney (guitar), and Mike Williams (bass). This core was later supplemented by Glen DaCosta (tenor sax), Joe McCormack (trombone), Danny McFarlane (organ), and Max Edwards (drums). In 1977 Edwards left Zap Pow and was replaced by drummer Cornell Marshall. Singers Winston 'King' Cole and Prilly Hamilton were occasional front men but Zap Pow was primarily an instrumental group that excelled as a studio session band although their live shows were also superb. Zap Pow's biggest success was a masterpiece instrumental named Mystic Moods that fooled listeners into believing it was produced abroad.

It's a little-known fact that international superstar vocalist Beres Hammond made his 1978 recording debut as Zap Pow's lead singer on a minor hit named The System. Scandal Corner, recorded in 1973 on the Bassh label (written by Madden and Pinkney), was intended as a spoof of Jamaicans' tendency to judge based on gossip, hearsay or suss rather than hard evidence.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.