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Golding to attorney general: 'Stay in your lane'

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Opposition spokesman on Justice Senator Mark Golding has chided Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte for encroaching on the portfolio responsibilities of Justice Minister Delroy Chuck and National Security Minister Robert Montague.

Speaking yesterday at a press conference at the People's National Party (PNP) headquarters on Old Hope Road in St Andrew, Golding said Malahoo Forte's quest to take on policy and become "a quasi minister" would get her into trouble.

The former justice minister said the attorney general was heading down a "dangerous path" when she signalled, earlier this week, that the constitutional rights of Jamaicans might be abridged, abrogated, or infringed in the Government's thrust to reduce the worsening murder rate.

"As much as she may like to take on policy and become some kind of quasi minister of justice and quasi minister of national security, she is going to get herself into increasing problems if she does so. Leave the portfolios of those ministers to those ministers to run with the technical support that exists in the ministry to ensure that policy is properly designed," the opposition spokesman declared.

According to Golding, the attorney general needs to "stay in her lane" as her role is to be guardian of the legal rights of the people.




"I don't think this attorney general understands her current role, and it is becoming problematic," he said.

Golding said the parliamentary opposition would be carefully reviewing legislative measures brought to Parliament for passage and would not support any abrogation or rescission of the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.

Commenting on Malahoo Forte's suggestion that the Government would seek to amend the Bail Act, Golding charged that any arbitrary prohibition on bail would be deemed unconstitutional. He said the Bail Act is very clear about the factors that the court will take into account in deciding whether to grant bail.

He said any proposal to amend the Bail Act similar to that which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2010 would not receive support from the Opposition.

Discussing the attorney general's proposal for non-capital murder cases to be tried by a judge only, Golding contended that the conviction rate in the Gun Court, where a judge alone tries cases, is substantially lower than in circuit courts, where trials are by jury.

He said the conviction rate in the Gun Court is about 30 per cent, while in Circuit Court trials, the conviction rate could be as high as 60 per cent.

"One has to question, what is the motivation behind the particular proposal of eliminating jury trial in non-capital murder cases?"

Golding reasoned that Jamaica is a small and violent society and such a move would place tremendous stress on judges as they seek to determine guilt or innocence on the facts before the court in a murder case.

"I suspect that the judiciary in Jamaica will be uncomfortable with being made to play the role of a jury in murder cases given that the judiciary already has security concerns."