Recently I raised cautiously the question of the reasons for SOCU’s withdrawal of charges it had made against Dr. Ashni Singh, then Minister of Finance and Mr. Winston Brassington, then CEO of NICIL. The responses that have come to my notice are not chance responses that can be ignored. They seem to be part of a built-in defence against the now familiar charge, which I did not invent, of misconduct in public office.
The episode involving the two public figures named above cannot and should not be separated from the whole issue of gender status and its intersection with power relations. Thus, I find it close in nature to the episode involving a male Minister and a female Parliamentarian who complained of being assaulted by him. The episode involving these two MPs could in other circumstances and a healthier political culture have been the occasion for an all-party closing of ranks in defence of the equality which their Oaths of Office commit them to defend. The woman’s complaint is being treated unfairly as an unsolvable legal problem requiring jurists of exceptional calibre. I end discussion on this topic with a final statement: when I studied law at the feet of Mr. Fred Wills, LLM, he taught us one Sunday morning at his home, “to put a person in fear of being struck is assault.”
All I wish to do now is to repeat the records available in print of the fate of the allegations against the two public figures who, as I heard Attorney Timothy Jonas argue in principle, are now being deprived of a chance to clear their name.
SOCU was established in 2013 or 2014 during the PPP/C administration and was then described as being under the control of the Commissioner of Police with some oversight by the Finance Intelligence Unit. In 2016 Mr. Joseph Harmon of the Coalition repeated the assurance that SOCU will remain within the control of the Commissioner of Police. Sometime in 2018 the two public figures were charged and the DPP in office, whoever it was, did not intervene to remove the case from the court. An attorney representing the two men approached the High Court for a declaration that the charge was invalid. The DPP’s position in relation to this plea has not been found in print. The High Court answer to the plea of invalidity came from the Chief Justice when she ruled that the two public figures should stand trial by a Magistrate. The next stage in the drama was the withdrawal by SOCU of the charge against the two men and the media report of this withdrawal.
Up to the time of the writing of this letter, there is no public information about whether the DPP’s office has any response to either the ruling of the High Court or to SOCU’s withdrawal of the charges. Article 187 of the Constitution, on the face of it, empowers the Director of Public Prosecutions in all matters dealing with the prosecution of persons.