July 4, 2022

Former Cayman Islands Solicitor-General and Trinidad Chief Justice loses Privy Council appeal on conduct review

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Trinidad judge loses bid to halt legal inquiry into his private life

By Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, from the Guardian, UK

Chief justice Ivor Archie had tried to stop law association’s investigation which could lead to his removal from office

Judges in London have dismissed an attempt by the chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago to halt a legal investigation into his private life and alleged business dealings.

Ivor Archie had been facing mounting public criticism over his “close friendship” with Dillian Johnson, who was described as a “convicted felon” in a judgment issued by the judicial committee of the privy council (JCPC) on Thursday.

The ruling will add to the pressure on the country’s most senior lawyer, who has held the post since January 2008.

The Caribbean state is one of the few countries that still uses the JCPC as an ultimate court of appeal. Five senior members of the UK’s supreme court, including its president, Lady Hale, heard the case.

Johnson fled to the UK after surviving a shooting last December. He is being assisted by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who said there was “public hostility and great stigma attached to homosexuality” in Trinidad and Tobago. “Buggery” remains punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Archie, 57, who is married, is an honorary member of the Middle Temple in London, one of London’s four inns of court, and is considered a liberal thinker on gay rights. He has denied having an “intimate” relationship with Johnson.

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago has begun the process of establishing a committee of inquiry into Archie’s behaviour which could ultimately lead to his removal from office.

It wants to investigate claims that surfaced in local media about Johnson and Archie, including allegations that the chief justice had “tried to influence [judges] to change their state-provided personal security in favour of a private company with which his close friend, Mr Dillian Johnson, a convicted felon, was associated”.

Another report, the JCPC judgment said, alleged that “Johnson was among 12 people recommended for Housing Development Corporation (HDC) units” by the chief justice, who had “personally called and communicated via social media with a senior HDC official to fast-track the applications”.

The country’s Sunday Express newspaper complained that Archie had not responded to the allegations but “instead he has shown a brazen imperviousness to public questioning and criticism which has laid bare the effective autocracy of the chief justice”. It was also reported that Archie “has been joined by Johnson, 36, while on official business abroad”.

The law association decided that the allegations were “sufficiently grave” and that a committee should be established to ascertain the facts and report back.

But Archie issued a judicial review challenge questioning whether the law association had the power to conduct such an investigation, suggesting it was biased against him, had demonstrated bad faith and that its procedures were unfair.

The chief justice has denied the allegations against him relating to Johnson, though he has admitted that he forwarded the names of some “needy and deserving persons” to the housing authority for consideration.

Delivering judgment, Hale rejected all of the grounds of appeal advanced by lawyers for Archie. She also cancelled an injunction imposed by Trinidad’s court of appeal which prevented the law association from continuing with its investigation into the chief justice.

Trinidad and Tobago’s chief justice, Ivor Archie, who has been facing mounting public criticism over his ‘close friendship’ with Dillian Johnson. Photograph: Andrea De Silva/Reuters

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For more on this story go to: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/aug/16/trinidad-judge-loses-bid-to-halt-legal-inquiry-into-his-private-life

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