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Volney apologises to Anand in public
Former Justice Minister Herbert Volney says he accepts full responsibility for the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, which caused a scandal that might have allowed a number of people, including two United National Congress financiers, to avoid facing the courts on serious criminal charges. He also hoped that the country would move past the fiasco.
Volney, who spoke at a press conference held by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan at his ministry on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, apologised to Ramlogan and said he had failed the Cabinet and could understand why the Prime Minister decided to dismiss him. His apology followed the settlement of a lawsuit, resulting in his public apology to Ramlogan, payment of an undisclosed sum to a charity of Ramlogan’s choice and agreeing not to repeat the defamatory remarks in future.
Ramlogan’s lawsuit stemmed from an on-line blog posted by Volney commenting on his dismissal from Cabinet over the Section 34 matter. In 2012, after his dismissal from Cabinet after public uproar and demonstrations following the proclamation of the law, Volney sought to lay blame on Ramlogan. He said yesterday: “Let me make it abundantly clear to you all that I take full responsibility for Section 34.
“I was the line minister at the Ministry of Justice and having come from a background in the criminal justice system as a judge and as a former prosecutor, I was one who not only helped to calibrate Section 34 and to bring it about but also to have it amended in the Senate during the course of debate and also at the time it was proclaimed.
“It was obviously an oversight and without the necessary information from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions I was unaware of the fallouts. I should have undertaken more careful consideration of the proclamation which I did not and I failed the Cabinet in that regard. “The Attorney General had nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with Section 34 other than as a parliamentary colleague to assist me on the floor, during the committee stage in particular.”
Volney described his statements about Ramlogan after his dismissal from Government as “reckless” and said he was hurt by the entire situation. Ramlogan, who made the announcement of the settlement between the two parties, said he was pleased. He said he had steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the matter and had pointed out “it had precious little to do with me.
Ramlogan added: “There were attempts in some quarters to create political mischief and to maliciously try and pin that Section 34 tag on my office and on me personally. “Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth and I have always maintained that I had no role or involvement in that matte, because it was not a matter which fell within my ministerial jurisdiction.
“I hope that with this clarification, the political missiles that were launched to try and lay blame at my feet will now cease as this matter is one which we as a country have dealt with and is now before the courts.” Ramlogan also said he had other defamation claims pending, noting cases against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. “I intend to vigorously defend the reputation and character of the office of Attorney General and myself personally,” he stressed.
Section 34 timeline
• December 2011: The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act is passed by both Houses of Parliament.
• August 30, 2012: Minister of Justice Herbert Volney approaches Cabinet seeking early proclamation of several sections, including Section 34.
• August 31, 2012: Section 34 is proclaimed.
• September 9, 2012: Under the headline “Piarco airport cases to be dropped,” T&T Guardian reports that those charged in the Piarco Airport corruption case may be able to have the charges against them dropped as a result, since the charges were laid more than seven years previously. Among them are UNC financiers Steve Ferguson and Ish Galbaransingh.
• September 12, 2012: Parliament sits to repeal Section 34.
• September 20, 2012: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar dismisses Herbert Volney as a minister.
• In October: 42 applicants under Section 34 claim their rights were infringed by its repeal.
• November 2, 2012: Mass public demonstration, led by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, to protest Section 34.
• November 5, 2013: Ramlogan sends pre-action protocol letter to Volney over libellous statements made in an E-mail group.
• November 19, 2012: Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, puts the criminal prosecution of 25 applicants under Section 34 on hold.
• February 20, 2014: Civil claim filed in the matter of Anand Ramlogan vs Herbert Volney.