SOCU lawyers given 1 week to respond to High Court challenge

first_imgSingh, Brassington chargesLawyers for the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) have been given one week to file an affidavit in response, to show cause why the High Court should not grant an injunction to have an interim stay on lower court proceedings on charges against two former Government officials.On April 12, 2018, SOCU instituted legal proceedings against former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) CEO Winston Brassington for what it says is “misconduct in public office: contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale ofAttorney Anil Nandlall surrounded by reporters and his legal team at the High Court on Wednesdaythree plots of State land. However, former Attorney General under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, Anil Nandlall is challenging these matters for what the defence contends are frivolous charges. Nandlall filed two High Court actions seeking to 1) have an interim stay of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts and 2) to have the charges against Singh and Brassington quashed.On Wednesday, Justice Franklyn Holder heard the challenge for an interim stay of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts. Having heard both sides, the Judge gave SOCU’s lawyers one week to show why he should not grant Nandlall’s application.Singh’s and Brassington’s legal team included Senior Counsel Stanley Moore, Sase Gunraj, Ronald Burch-Smith and Mark Waldron.Following the in-chambers hearing, Nandlall, along with his legal team, told reporters that the hearing for the application for the interim order has commenced before Justice Holder, adding that time was of the essence.“We are challenging the legality and validity of the charges and that will take some time to determine; in the meantime, we want an interim order staying the hands of the Magistrate from going forward, so the hearing for that has commenced [but] the other side wants leave to file and answer,” he observed.Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran is of the view that the charges may be unconstitutional on the basis that Singh and Brassington were not “public officers” in accordance with the Constitution. “In England, which does not have a written constitution, or apparently any applicable statutory definition, case law developed. In R v Whittaker (1914), the court defined a “public office holder” as “an officer who discharges any duty in the discharge of which the public are interested, more clearly if he is paid out of a fund provided by the public”. He added that more recently, in R v Dytham (1979), Chief Justice Lord Widgery referred to a public officer as one “who has an obligation to perform a duty”.Various lawyers have also recently pointed out that using the definitions of “public officer”, “public office,” and “public service” as defined in Article 232 of the Guyana Constitution would exclude both Singh and Brassington, from the charges of “Misconduct in Public Office: Contrary to the Common Law.”It was posited that this was “an open-and-shut case”, as neither Singh nor Brassington are “public officers” and as such, the law under which they are charged (based on both the Constitution and legal precedents all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)) cannot be applied to them. After the charges were filed, Nandlall on behalf of PPP/C Members of Parliament (MPs) took to the court to have Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and former Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton charged with the same offence. In addition, Government Ministers David Patterson, Winston Jordan and Dr Rupert Roopnaraine were all also charged. However, all of those charges were discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a move which Nandlall contends is unfair as he continues to oppose the decision. Both parties will return to the Supreme Court on May 16 for arguments on whether or not the Judge will grant the interim stay.last_img

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