Daly Bread: Compromising due process of law is potential catalyst for wider social unrest

Public trust and confidence in the capacity of our country’s institutions and high offices to make full disclosure and to observe due process of law has again been shaken.

Compromising due process is a potential catalyst for wider social unrest because of the way in which the authorities manipulate the mounting number of cases of police involved killings. This is most alarming. Some of the recent work of the Police Complaints Authority (the PCA) can be a useful mitigant.

Photo: TTPS Guard and Emergency officers during an exercise in Sea Lots in July 2020.
(via TTPS)

Last week our capital city and adjacent highways were again disrupted by fiery protests of East Port of Spain residents—this time against the police involved killings of three young men in the city last Saturday, reportedly shot from behind according to the autopsy reports.  

This occurred shortly after the revelation by the PCA that Constable Clarence Gilkes had been killed by a police bullet. The Commissioner of Police was allegedly “misled” by his officers into believing that they had a suspect for the shooting.  Yeah, right!

How can Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds sincerely urge protesters to take more “civilised and lawful paths” when citizens can be set up and so many cases, like the ten-year old Moruga police involved killings, are stalled?

Photo: Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds (second from left) offers a hand to acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob (second from right).
(via Ministry of National Security)

In 2020, following earlier fiery protests in East Port of Spain over the police involved killing of three men in Morvant, the PM appointed a Community Recovery Committee (CRC) headed by Dr Anthony Watkins.  

Why has the Committee’s report been kept secret, especially as Minister Hinds tells us that its recommendations have been accepted and are being used in various Ministries?

Forgive me if the prevalent Government tactics of evasion, victim blaming and disdainful categorisations of the East Port of Spain residents leave me unable to believe a word of what we are being told about the use of the CRC recommendations, without the report being made public and more specific information about the implementation of its recommendations.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley shows off his community recovery team of Anthony Watkins, Hans Des Vignes, Jamaal Shabazz, Curtis Toussaint, Akosua Edwards, Nicola Harvey, Chris Leacock and then Community Development Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly in 2020.
(via Dr Keith Rowley)

Our Governments also self-harm their credibility by the constant use of “the equal fault” play.  In our politics, a minister under fire can simply say that the political opponents, when in office, “did it too”.  

We saw this play recently when the PM labelled the AG’s critics as the “section 34 brigade”—no doubt in order to deflect accountability for the questionable sworn testimony of the Attorney General put before a Miami Court in civil proceedings related to the Piarco corruption case.

Allegations of plagiarism are also in the political domain and it was inspiring to see how regulators in the US moved severely against Ernst & Young (EY), the international accounting firm, to deal with what the US media labelled “the Ernst & Young cheating scandal”.  

Photo: Reginald Armour SC (left) is sworn in as attorney general by President Paula-Mae Weekes on 17 March 2022.
(Copyright Office of the President)

Some 200 EY audit professionals across the US exploited a software flaw to pass continuing professional examinations while answering only a low percentage of questions correctly. This cheating included cheating in ethics exams.

Following investigations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, USA Today and Forbes  business magazine (28 and 29 June 2022) highlighted that EY agreed to pay $100 million, “the largest fine ever paid to the SEC”.

The investigation into the EY cheating scandal reportedly took three years.  By contrast, one of the prosecutions in the Piarco Airport corruption scandal has run aground after “a long running and extraordinary set of circumstances” consuming nearly 20 years to date.

The attempts by attorneys general to “guide” the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP) are another problem. For example, a junior Minister in the AG’s department brandished legal opinions which that department had officiously sought concerning the status of the Piarco corruption case that has run aground.  

Photo: Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal.

Before that, former AG Faris Al Rawi was active in the Christian Chandler case, giving advice to the police without reference to the DPP on the most specious of pretexts.

Any action or omission of the State, which has the potential to interfere with due process, may amount to an abuse of process and the fatal compromising of criminal proceedings or PCA investigations.  

Instead, please provide resources to alleviate the chronic fifty per cent understaffing of the DPP’s department—otherwise Cabinet members, stay in your section.

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About Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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