The new arrangement of The Little Drummer Boy by 5 Miles to Midnight (5M2M) released last week begins gently and reassuringly enough.
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Ventour has taken responsibility-Mendes
Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes said yesterday it was important to recognise that Ventour has taken responsibility. He said this was both for not alerting the President to the fact that he was leaving the judiciary with outstanding judgments, which would have meant that at some point he would have to resign from the commission to deliver those judgments, and for not having had the foresight to appreciate he would indeed have to do so.
“I can’t see that there would have been any improper motive on anyone’s part in proceeding in this way, and for my part I am prepared to accept that this episode is explainable by simple human error,” said Mendes. “I also think that it is fairly obvious that, once faced with the dilemma, the plan was for Justice Ventour to resign his position on the commission so that he could deliver his judgments, and then be re-appointed to the commission at a later date.”
He described Ventour as a “clear asset” to the commission, adding that would have been a pity if his services were lost because of the “initial, apparently inadvertent, error in his appointment.” He added, “It is, however, fair to say that once the error was discovered, good governance and transparency demanded that a full explanation be given for what had occurred and what was planned in order to correct it. That course of action would certainly have forestalled much of the justifiable media curiosity which studied silence has generated.”
He said Ventour was also right to denigrate the practice of allowing judges to retire with outstanding judgments. When that happens, Mendes said, there is much less control over timely delivery, and uncomfortable questions arise as to the capacity in which the retired judge is acting when he or she is engaged in judgment-writing. “As with all offices of high constitutional significance, it is so important to ensure that the letter of the law is followed, for that usually means that its spirit is also being honoured,” Mendes added.
Also contacted yesterday, Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal said upon Ventour’s resignation, his temporary appointment should have been made immediately after he left the bench so that he could complete the judgments. In response to Ventour’s letter, she said this was laudable and she supported his recommendations on good governance where a judge’s retirement was imminent.
On the issue of writing judgments, Seetahal said, “I think, however, his account leaves open the suggestion of writing judgments. Should a former judge be writing judgments after he has retired? He should be given the time. That constitutes judicial work.”
Ventour said at the time of his retirement the judgments were KGC Co Ltd v Guyadeen Persad, Ameena Homeward v the Attorney General of T&T, and Mora Ven Holdings Ltd, Mora Oil Ventures Ltd and George Nicholas v Krishna Persad and Associates Ltd and Dr Krishna Persad.