By Gordon Robinson
By now, readers should've realised my OCD-like focus on the Vaz-Bicknell-Forbes fiasco arises from my belief there's more to this than meets the eye.
To those who expose their hostility to disclosure of national interest concerns with facile miscategorisations of my columns on the subject as breaching sub judice rules, I say, give up. Try something else. One online 'expert' posted the following comment to my Sunday column of November 18 ('Slapdash prosecution!'):
"This is just what a judge spoke about a few days ago. That cases that are being dealt with by the courts are being [sic] under investigation should not be commented upon. What it does it [sic] will cause such cases to be thrown out of court."
Which judge? Certainly not Court of Appeal President Seymour Panton, who rebuked lawyers seeking strategic advantage by commenting publicly on the facts of their own cases while those cases were being tried. The best forensic word I can find to describe that online comment is 'tripe'.
I've never asserted what I think the case facts are or how a court should finally rule. What I'm doing is exercising every citizen's right to discuss and, where appropriate, critique the processes in the Office of the DPP and the police force investigating and prosecuting this case based on uncontested public statements regarding both. We don't want dubwise Law and Order.
I don't care whether any defendant is guilty or innocent. What I, as a citizen, demand is that these two public services pool their best efforts to ensure that the court is able to convict any guilty defendant. If it's my sincere belief this isn't happening, I intend to say so in most unambiguous terms and set out my reasons for saying. This is called democracy.
So, while I'm on the subject, am I the only person questioning the role played in this, as publicly reported, by Lucius Thomas, former police commissioner, and former PNP candidate, currently working in the national security ministry?
This is how The Gleaner reported Thomas' involvement on August 22. To date, there's been no demur:
The police sergeant [Llewellyn] had reportedly gone to Thomas' home ... after pressure was allegedly brought to bear on him to drop the bribery charge against ... Bruce Bicknell.
It's understood that ... Thomas sought an assurance from Llewellyn whether he was convinced that Bicknell was actually seeking to bribe him.
[Thomas] reportedly told the sergeant that he had done the "correct thing". ... but urged him to think about his family."
Since the police charged Bicknell, on Llewellyn's complaint, it's not much of a stretch to conclude that Llewellyn answered Thomas' query with a yes. In that context, what did Thomas mean by advising Llewellyn to "think about his family" as a reservation to his opinion Llewelyn had done the correct thing?
In fact, a close analysis of Thomas' reported 'advice' could easily result in a belief (and it's my belief) Thomas was OPINING that the sergeant had done the right thing but ADVISING him to "think about his family". The only feasible inference is that thinking about his family should lead to Llewelyn doing something other than "the correct thing". Was Thomas advising Llewellyn to drop the charge against Bicknell?
Why was Lucius Thomas giving Sergeant Llewellyn any advice? The only proper advice would've been to seek 'advice' up the JCF's chain of command. Did Llewellyn ask his superintendent for advice before approaching Thomas'? Did he make enquiries of any ACP or of the commissioner? Why Thomas? And why did Thomas feel comfortable in giving that ambivalent advice open to adverse interpretation?
At the time, Lucius Thomas' post at National Security (total salary package above $6 million per year) was 'director, police welfare and advocacy'. A government list of 'advisers/consultants and support staff in ministries, departments and agencies' describes his function as "provides effective oversight of the implementation of policies, programmes and systems affecting the welfare of members of the JCF and its auxiliaries".
This is the very ministry with portfolio responsibility for the police. Was it coincidence that Thomas was the 'adviser' of first resort? Which 'policies, programmes and systems' was he overseeing when he advised Llewellyn on this specific contretemps? Clearly, none.
Did the minister know Thomas was exceeding his remit first by advising a JCF member on an operational issue and, second, advising otherwise than to go up the chain of command? What, if anything, did the minister know of Thomas' involvement in this affair? Since August 22, what, if anything, has the minister done about the breach of protocol?
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.