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Editorial: Ms Llewellyn should undertake review

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Given that the statute of limitations hasn't yet elapsed, we assume that it is still open for Paula Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), to prefer charges against Shernet Haughton, the former chairman of the Hanover Parish Council, on corruption-related charges while she was in the job.

Whatever Ms Llewellyn decides, the fact that she has now conceded that there is basis for a charge, and how this came about, is important in two respects.

First, knowing that they could face the courts, and possibly be found guilty of an offence and sent to jail, might act as a deterrent to others who may have been minded to act as Ms Haughton did. Second, as we argued earlier this year, it is a sign of a maturing democracy when different arms of the State, with opposing interpretations of the law, can seek the intervention of the courts to arbitrate their differences.

In this case, one side conceded before the matter was fully ventilated. In some countries, such democratic independence to mount the challenge, such this one by Dirk Harrison, the contractor general, would not be countenanced.

These observations about the relative independence and soundness of Jamaica's institutions of democracy notwithstanding, we find it disconcerting that Office of the DPP, by its own admission, erred on what appears to have been a relatively straightforward matter, but maintained a defiant posture for so long. Indeed, this development suggests the need for a review by the Office of the DPP of its approaches to corruption-related cases, which, hopefully, will lead to a more substantive conclusion than Ms Llewellyn's initial offering of being "only human", the "onerous" nature of the job, and the possibility of "oversight".


Human failing


We appreciate the possibility of human failing and the fact that when lawyers go to court, there is generally a 50:50 chance of winning or losing. Yet, in an office of more than 40 prosecutors, we do not expect the burden to fall entirely on the leader, and believe that this case, in particular, would have been approached with especial rigour given the heightened public interest in the matter and Ms Llewellyn's encouragement to "bring it on" when Mr Harrison intimated his challenge.

This development has great resonance at this time, with political parties on alert for a general election and candidates making pitches to voters about why they should be elected to Parliament - in much the same way as Ms Haughton did in her parish council division on behalf of the People's National Party. She won and was named leader of the local government and mayor of the parish capital, Lucea.

Ms Haughton proceeded to engage in egregious behaviour against the people she pledged to serve, making recommendations of family members and friends, who were awarded contracts. Ms Haughton excused her blatant nepotism on her ignorance of

ethical matters and an absence of training therein.

Ms Llewellyn's office recognised the misbehaviour but held that because all the contracts were below J$500,000, the procurement rules were not broken - a fact she now acknowledges to be otherwise.

With these new facts, perhaps Ms Haughton might be nudged to finally do the right thing and resign from the council, which she should have done many months ago.