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AG wants clarity from accuser

After collusion probe comes up clean
Published: 
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan chats with then solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell during a press conference last year.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell must now clarify whether she penned a second letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the issue involving collusion in prison litigation matters. The AG made the call in a statement last night, after Donaldson-Honeywell yesterday issued a press release on the letters she wrote to the PM in August 2013 seeking an investigation into her claims of collusion involving attorneys in prison litigation cases and her apparent subsequent amendment to this. In her statement yesterday, Donaldson-Honeywell said at no time did she withdraw her call for a probe into the matter.  But pointing out that after meeting with Donaldson-Honeywell he did investigate the matter, the AG said she must now clarify whether she sent the second letter, in which she allegedly withdrew her call for a probe. “Only Mrs Donaldson-Honeywell can say if she sent the letter dated October 28, 2013 to the Office of the Prime Minister. It is in the public interest that she provides clarification on this because she did in fact advise me that it was sent and forwarded a signed copy to my office,” the AG said.

 

No evidence

Ramlogan said he investigated the concerns raised by Donaldson-Honeywell concerning prison brutality cases and found no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the allegations that lawyers in the Chief State Solicitor’s (CSS) department or the Solicitor General’s Department were in collusion with prisoners or their attorneys to procure a favourable settlement. He added, “The settlement of prison cases predated my appointment as AG and it is mischievous for anyone to raise unspecified concerns that have no basis in fact. Indeed, the ultimate protection and safeguard against any form of impropriety is the SG, as no case can be settled unless the SG first recommends same. “I am surprised that an issue is now being made about prison cases in light of the fact that the large majority of these cases were in fact settled under the previous administration long before I was appointed AG. It is incredible that no concerns were raised back then.”

 

Ramlogan said he requested a report from acting Solicitor General Carol Hernandez on the specific cases raised and the documents on file revealed that none of the cases had in fact been settled. “There was a trial in each matter and compensation was awarded by the court based on the evidence. Such evidence normally includes independent medical evidence from the hospital or prison doctor verifying the injuries sustained,” he said. “The procedure for settling cases does not leave any room for collusion. Files are randomly assigned to the legal teams selected by the CSS and SG.” The Ag said if the evidence justifies settlement, the procedure is as follows: 
 

The procedure involves

• The attorneys assigned from two different departments (Chief State Solicitor and Solicitor General) will prepare an advice with the reasons for recommending settlement.
 • The team leader would independently review this advice and may or may not recommend it to the SG for consideration.
• The SG would independently review the file and recommend settlements to the AG if she is satisfied that it was justified and proper to do so.
• The AG will then grant the final approval for the recommended settlement.

 

Lawyers’ conduct defended

Ramlogan added, “The AG cannot settle any matter on his own. The Chief State Solicitor and Solicitor General’s departments are independent departments under the supervision and control of the CSS and the SG. The lawyers are not selected by the AG but are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC).” He said he was not prepared to allow his attorneys to be tainted by the current debate over the matter, since they had conducted themselves professionally under his tenure. “I remain ready and willing to investigate any case in which there is a cause for concern but I cannot and will not allow a cloud of suspicion to be cast over the heads of my attorneys without a shred of evidence,” Ramlogan said. “Should I find any evidence that is of concern, I will immediately refer the attorney (internal or external) for disciplinary action to the JLSC and the Law Association. “I remain receptive to any matter of genuine concern about prison litigation, but stand on the side of my attorneys in this ministry as they have conducted themselves in a professional manner with utmost integrity.”

 

 

He noted the judgement of Madam Justice Judith Jones’s in the case of Antonio Sobers vs the AG, where she stated that “in recent years there has been brought before the court an increasing number of cases alleging brutality by servants of the State and, in particular, police and prison officers. “Statistics provided by the court reveal that of a total of 427 cases of assault and battery filed in the High Court during the period  of September 16, 2005 to May 31, 2012. 302 matters were alleging assault and/or battery by persons employed by the State.” He noted that, 71 per cent of the cases alleging assault and/ or battery filed in the High Court of Justice between September 16, 2005 to May 31, 2012, were cases alleging abuse by way of physical assault by servants of the State. The cost of these actions to the reputation of the police and prison services cannot be measured, he said. He said of the 302 matters filed, 157 have been determined to date and of these 120 have resulted in damages being paid to the claimant. From this, it is reasonable to conclude that of the 157 matters completed, 37 matters were found to be without merit, he said. “Of those 120 actions damages have only been assessed in 100 so far. Awards with respect to interest apart, the State has paid or is liable to pay some $10,265,776.14 in compensation to litigants with respect to these actions. These figures do not include those persons who would be entitled to damages pursuant to this judgment.” 

 

The Procedure

• The attorneys assigned from two different departments (Chief State Solicitor and Solicitor General) will prepare an advice with the reasons for recommending settlement.
 • The team leader would independently review this advice and may or may not recommend it to the SG for consideration.
• The SG would independently review the file and recommend settlements to the AG if she is satisfied that it was justified and proper to do so.
• The AG will then grant the final approval for the recommended settlement.