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26 challenging Section 34 repeal
Lawyers representing 26 applicants under the now repealed Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act made their first appearance in the Port-of-Spain High Court, yesterday. Despite the repeal of the legislation during an emergency session of Parliament last month, the attorneys are still seeking to have charges against their clients, which date back more than ten years, dismissed.
During yesterday’s hearing before Justice Mira Dean-Armorer, most of the applicants indicated they were planning to file constitutional motions challenging the repeal of the legislation. Some of the parties involved already have filed such litigation in the High Court registry.
They include Maritime Life, Maritime General and Fidelity Finance. Similar motions were filed by businessman Steve Ferguson and Maritime Life and General Co Ltd executives John Smith and Barbara Gomes. In their lawsuit, the companies and the businessmen allege the repeal of the section was contrary to the principle of separation of powers and deprived them of their rights. All 26 applicants have applied under Section 34.
However, those yet to file parallel constitutional motions include Ishwar Galbaransingh, former Airports Authority executive Amrith Maharaj, Galbaransingh’s Northern Construction Ltd, former finance minister Brian Kuei Tung, former ministers Carlos John and Russell Huggins, businessman Ameer Edoo, Tyrone Gopee, Peter Cateau, former minister Sadiq Baksh, businesswoman Renee Pierre, former prime minister Basdeo Panday and his wife Oma, Brent Alvarez, Dane Lewis, Carlton Roop, Colin and Oswald Catlyn, Anand Harrypersad and Anderson Meharris.
The repealed law sought to abolish preliminary enquiries for serious criminal case. It provided that after the expiration of ten years from the date on which an offence is alleged to have been committed, persons would be allowed to apply before a judge in chambers to have the matters automatically dismissed. The applicants all filed their Section 34 application prior to the repeal in mid-September.
Most of the applicants in the matter were indicted on fraud charges stemming from the construction $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport while the rest are facing other unrelated criminal charges. Justice Dean-Armorer has been assigned to hear both the group’s constitutional motions and the Section 34 applications.She said yesterday she would concentrate first on the motions before the applications are dealt with.
Attorney Ian Benjamin, who is representing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), was given a deadline of Thursday to file an application which would seek to have his client join as an interested party in the constitutional motion. The move was not opposed by Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, who is representing Ferguson, Maritime Financial, its executives and several other applicants, who said the DPP’s application would be interesting.
Dean-Armorer agreed to adjourn the matter for two weeks to allow the parties involved to decide on the course of action they wished to proceed with in the matter. The state is being represented by British Queen’s Counsel Baron David Pannick, Senior Counsel Israel Kahn, attorneys Wayne Sturge and Gerald Ramdeen.
The applicant’s legal team includes Hosein, Andrew Mitchell, QC, Sophia Chote, SC and attorneys Ricki Harnanan, Rajeev Persad and Ravi Rajcoomar. They will return to court on November 19 for a second case management conference.
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