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DPP ready to buck Office of the Contractor General

Published:Monday | June 29, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Paula Llewellyn
Shernet Haughton

Contractor General Dirk Harrison's decision to mount a legal challenge to force the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prefer charges against Lucea councillor Shernet Haughton in an alleged case of nepotism is a waste of time, according to DPP Paula Llewellyn.

"The DPP acts by virtue of the Constitution of Jamaica, which, by the way, supersedes the Office of the OCG and all other commissions of Parliament and the DPP cannot be dictated to by any of these entities," Llewellyn told The Gleaner-Power 106 News Centre on Friday.

"As such, the action of the contractor general in going to court to overturn her decision not to press charges against Haughton, after his office had made out a bona fide case against the former mayor, has very little chance of succeeding."

Evidence of nepotism

The contractor general found that as mayor of Lucea, Haughton recommended relatives and friends for some 22 contracts, worth more than $3.7 million. However, the DPP ruled against preferring criminal charges against the accused, pointing out that although the evidence of nepotism was overwhelming, it is not an offence under the law.

Harrison disagreed, arguing that such a decision should have been left to the courts, and countered by taking the matter to court, a case which is yet to be heard.

Not true, said Llewellyn.

"I stand by my decision," she declared. "We get many referrals from different entities all over the service, from all over the place, sending files to us and asking for our opinion or recommendation in the matter. They may posit a particular position, but because the DPP exercises judgement, pursuant to powers under the Constitution, which indicate that I cannot be influenced in the exercise of my judgment ... . I am always bound by virtue of my constitutional powers to make independent assessment and to give an independent recommendation."

This, however, does not constrain the OCG from mounting a private prosecution, reporting the matter to the police, or getting a summons and serving it on the particular suspect or individual, Llewellyn explained, but warned of a potential pitfall.

"If they take it to court and the defence rubbishes their prosecution and the court agrees and throws out the matter, then that particular entity who initiated the prosecution would be open and subject to a possible suit of malicious prosecution."

And the DPP is very confident her office will prevail in court.

"We will be ready to meet any and every possible argument that the OCG will posit ... . I am really interested in preparing to meet and respond to what I perceive to be in the documentation," she told The Gleaner-Power 106 news team.