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Lawyers cite Section 34 to ask for adjournment
Lawyers appearing for the eight accused in the Piarco Inquiry II, which is before the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court, have requested a six-week adjournment to ascertain how Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 may affect the case involving their clients. Edward Fitzgerald, QC, who appeared on behalf of businessman Steve Ferguson yesterday, said defence attorneys needed time to “consider the implication of Section 34 on the proceedings” before the court.
There were no objections from special prosecutors Gilbert Peterson, SC, and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, when the application was made. Speaking on behalf of all defence attorneys when he addressed magistrate Ejenny Espinet, Fitzgerald said the adjournment until November 2 was to facilitate the pending application before the High Court.
He said many people had made applications to the High Court in regard to Section 34, not only those accused in this inquiry. The controversy surrounding Section 34 was reported exclusively in the Sunday Guardian on September 9. The overall act was intended to end preliminary inquiries in the magistrates courts. Section 34 allows for an application to be made for a case to be thrown out and the accused discharged if more than ten years have passed since the offence and if their trial has not yet started.
Fitzgerald said three things had occurred since Parliament’s intervention: the act had been repealed; it had halted the High Court from ruling on Section 34 and its impact on the matters before it; and had discouraged the reliance of a legitimate expectation of Section 34 and the possible consequences. He said it would be unjust to the defendants to continue the proceedings.
Gopee, Baksh and Cateau, who are representing themselves, said they would not be making any submissions when questioned by the magistrate. The matter has been adjourned to November 2. Lawyers representing Maharaj in the Piarco Inquiry I filed the petition in the High Court last Thursday to have the matter dismissed.
Others who have filed petitions include Ferguson; Galbaransingh; Kuei Tung; Edoo; Maritime Life General Insurance Co Ltd executives John Henry Smith and Barbara Gomes; Maritime Finance; Northern Construction Ltd; Fidelity Finance Leasing Company Ltd; and former government ministers Carlos John and Russell Huggins. It is uncertain if applications have been filed in respect of Gopee, Cateau, Baksh and businesswoman Renee Pierre. They were all charged in relation to allegations of corruption tied to the UNC’s $1.5 billion Piarco International Airport project.
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