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I’m not biased

Published: 
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Judge in gay rights case:

Three months after he ruled that this country’s buggery law was unconstitutional, High Court judge Devindra Rampersad is complaining that citizens are unfairly accusing him of being biased in the case.

Rampersad made the complaint while addressing attorneys for local gay rights activist Jason Jones and the State, during a hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday morning.

He said, “If it is a criticism of a judgment, I have no problem with that. What has troubled me is that since the judgment was delivered there have been statements that were written that affect the perception of the Judiciary. It is suggesting there is an agenda and that the court is biased and not operating freely.”

Rampersad maintained that he acted fairly in assessing the case and stated that his decision was based solely on the law and not on morality or religious beliefs.

Head of the State’s legal team, Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein joined in to denounce the unfair criticism levelled against Rampersad.

“I want to place it on record that we want to condemn such statements because we have confidence in the Judiciary. Justice is about getting it right,” Hosein said as he called on citizens to refrain from making such comments.

“This is a secular State under the Constitution and I want to appeal to persons who may have gotten carried away to refrain from making such unfortunate statements,” Hosein added.

During yesterday’s hearing, Rampersad heard oral submissions on whether the law should be struck down or amended.

While he ruled that sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults, is unconstitutional, Rampersad did not make a ruling on how the law should be interpreted to give effect to his judgment.

Hosein yesterday submitted that Rampersad should not modify the law as it would have unintended effects on other pieces of colonial legislation.

However, Rampersad warned that there would also be negative consequences if he merely struck out the sections of the legislation.

He pointed out that such a move would mean that forced anal intercourse would no longer be a criminal offence.

Instead, Rampersad suggested that he modify the legislation to introduce the defence of consent to offences.

Hosein suggested that introducing such a measure would be contrary to Parliament’s intention in criminalising the offences.

“That is a matter that lies squarely with the legislature,” Hosein said.

Rampersad also called on the parties to file additional submissions on whether the legal provisions for rape covered non-consensual anal sex.

The State is scheduled to file the additional submissions by July 31, while Jones’ team is expected to respond by September 7.

Rampersad is expected to give his final decision on September

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