October 28, 2020

Jamaica: House Committee serves DPP another blow

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Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.42.07 AMInside parliament with Balford Henry From Jamaica Observer

Sunday, December 06, 2015
Director of Public Prosecutions () Paula Llewellyn’s faint hope of a select committee of Parliament siding with her in the row with Commissioner Terrence Williams over the public’s right to private prosecutions, were dashed Tuesday when the committee tabled its report.

“The ’s Chamber informed us that private citizens have the right to initiate and conduct criminal prosecutions. However, this right is subject to the powers vested in the DPP to take over and to continue any criminal proceedings,” the committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lloyd B Smith, stated.

The report from the committee on the Reports from Commissions of Parliament, appointed earlier this year to review reports from the Commissions of Parliament, recommended that the DPP “clarifies to all courts in Jamaica that private citizens have the right to initiate a criminal prosecution”.

One of the amazing points raised by Williams in a special report to Parliament last year, which was eventually referred to the committee, was that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) actually has on its website information suggesting that private citizens did not have this right.

However, Commissioner Williams insisted, in his special report, that while this right to institute and conduct criminal proceedings was subject to the DPP’s constitutional right to intervene, it did not prevent ordinary citizens from pursuing it.
The committee said it had learnt that information presented on the DPP’s website suggested that private citizens did not have the right, and that it was only vested in the DPP.

“The Commissioner of INDECOM informed us that the information on the DPP’s website was misleading, and that the private right of citizens to initiate and conduct criminal proceedings, independent of the DPP, should be recognised in the statute,” the report said.

The committee said that after consulting with the Attorney General, it came to the conclusion that “there appeared to be an inconsistency in the information presented on the DPP’s website and the response provide by the AG’s Chambers.”

The Committee said, however, that the Attorney General, in response to the Commissioner’s proposal for it to be included in statute, advised that inserting another provision in legislation to provide private citizens with this right would be inappropriate, “as this right already existed in law”.

It served as another blow to Llewellyn’s standing as DPP, following closely on the heels of a recent admonishment from Contractor General Dirk Harrison for her failure to advise criminal investigations against former Lucea Mayor, Shernet Haughton, for awarding at least $4 million in contracts to her relatives and friends during her brief tenure.

Harrison also expressed regret that it took Llewellyn over eight months to be convinced that the public sector procurement regulations apply to the purchase of all goods, works, and services, irrespective of the value, and was not limited to a $500,000 threshold, as she had previous insisted.

Williams’ call for the Parliament to address the issue of private prosecutions, publicly, was prompted by Lewellyn’s decision last year not to proceed with a case against three policemen and two civilians charged with the murder of an aspiring music deejay Robert “Kentucky Kid” Hill, who was killed by the police at his home in Collins Green Avenue, Kingston in December, 2009.

This followed investigations by INDECOM into the killing, which led to a Coroner’s Court decision that the case should be pursued against the five accused.

*** Campagin Financing Bill finally approved

The very important Bill in the House of Representatives affecting the introduction of campaign financing rules was passed in the House of Representatives last week.

The Bill is among a number of bills passed in both Houses of Parliament since start of the current session, as the Government continues to react to the economic and fiscal requirements of its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF), as well as demands from muliteral and regional institutions for social improvements.

The government’s efforts to have its heavy legislative schedule met is commendable, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of full consultations and debates, at committee level if necessary, to ensure that the outcome of the process is not compromised.

One concern is that many of these bills are being rushed through both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament without much discussion and consultation, and are often passed with serious deficiencies which are bound to create undue problems down the road.

It is obvious, for example, that most MPs do not agree with the current $10-million limit, which the Electoral Commission of Jamaica () wishes to maintain when the campaign financing system comes into play.

The government has objections to the $10-million limit, and has stated this position on several occasions. However, Leader of the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, who piloted the Bill, said that the government decided to go ahead with approving the Bill without amendment with the issue of the $10-million limit still hanging.

Paulwell explained that this was done in order to safeguard a convention developed over the years, that recommendations from the ECJ are approved without amendment.

Developments like these expose a detached attitude on the part of parliament in dealing with the recommendations. It says that since both major political parties have representatives on the ECJ, they should accept the recommendations without anxiety because their representatives contributed to the proposals.

Closing the debate, Paulwell pointed out that the Campaign Finance Bill — titled The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2015 — was passed without amendment, in keeping with the convention.

He said that he was pleased that the tradition has held in relation to the recommendations from the ECJ. However, he admitted that the $10 million limit remains a concern to some MPs.

He said that he has asked the chairman of the ECJ to reflect on the matter and report back to Parliament in 30 days.

But, what was even more ominous was his admitting that the controversial spending limit, imposed by law in 2011, was intended to be adjusted as necessary, in keeping with inflation.

“What is a shortcoming in the law is that it really should have been subjected to constant review by Parliament,” he said. He proposed that the matter be referred back to the ECJ for review.

However, it seems that somebody forgot about that issue.

This week’s schedule in Parliament

Tuesday, December 8 at 2:00 pm — Sitting of the House of Representatives

Thursday, December 10, 10:00 am — Sitting of the Senate

Friday, December 11, 10:00 am — Sitting of the Senate

IMAGE: (L) WILLIAMS … said information on DPP’s website was misleading. (R) LLEWELLYN … failed to convince parliamentarians.

Tor more on this story go to: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/House-Committee-serves-DPP-another-blow_19242226

EDITOR:

The report from the committee on the Reports from Commissions of Parliament, appointed earlier this year to review reports from the Commissions of Parliament, recommended that the DPP “clarifies to all courts in Jamaica that private citizens have the right to initiate a criminal prosecution”.

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