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Paula Llewellyn: 'Kartel', 'Dudus', OCG, Richard Azan, Trafigura

Final of three parts

Sunday, March 23, 2014    

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THE year 2008 had come around with a sense among Jamaicans that something spectacular would happen for the country to make up for news that the world economy was plunging rapidly into a nasty recession.

What happened was indeed spectacular. Jamaica ruled the world in the sprint events at the summer Olympics later that year. Less spectacular, but arguably of even greater paramountcy, was the selection of a legal titan as Jamaica's first woman director of public prosecutions (DPP) in Paula Llewellyn, QC.

There was another first. The Bruce Golding Administration had decided to dispense with the old way of appointing a DPP by the prime minister making a recommendation to the governor general. This time, candidates would have to apply and go through a rigorous selection process administered by the Public Service Commission.

To get there, Llewellyn had to beat out a handful of people whose curriculum vitae were almost as impressive. Standing between her and the job of DPP were: Marlene Malahoo-Forte, now a senator; Lisa Palmer-Hamilton, currently senior deputy DPP; Vinette Graham Allen, former DPP in Bermuda and presently DPP in The Bahamas; Terrence Williams, former DPP of Tortola and currently head of INDECOM; and Hugh Wildman, former DPP of Grenada.

She said a quiet prayer of thanks that she had done the MIND course. In the past, the DPP was a man who had likely risen through the ranks — talented lawyers but short on management training. That senior public sector management course she had done as deputy DPP — with people like Jean Dixon, Carole Guntley-Brady, the late Grace Allen-Young, Elizabeth Steer, and Oscar Derby — was going to make a world of a difference. After the interviews, presentations and evaluations, she felt she had done her best.

The selectors agreed, and on March 5, 2008 Paula Vanessa Llewellyn, a woman who had also come through the ranks of the Office of DPP; who had shown courage under fire; a prosecutor who had battled the "brightest and the best" in the legal fraternity and had proved herself an individual of highest integrity, entered the history books.

The new DPP hit the ground running, sprinting really. The ODPP was woefully understaffed and overworked. For a place that needed at least 55 lawyers, who would have still been stretched, there were only 29 or 30.

"Everybody was stressed out and burnt out. We needed a lot of rebuilding. Most of our middle level had become non-existent. Within three years of my tenure I made recommendations and engaged eight or 10 attorneys on contract to give us space to breathe," Llewellyn recounts.

She says they are handling new and additional responsibilities that the ODPP did not have 25 years ago, because of the high crime rate and the types of crime being committed. She is trying to make do with that number of prosecutors for now, given the economic constraints of the country. But that doesn't make the work any easier.

The DPP now has an Extradition Unit; a Mutual Legal Assistance and Financial Crimes and Financial Services Commission Unit; a Human Rights, Intellectual Property and Sexual Offences Unit; Home Circuit Administrative Unit; Privy Council Unit; Corruption Prevention and Coroners Matters Unit; Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Unit; Environment Unit; Legal Reform Unit; Clerks of Court Liaison Unit; Gun Court Matters Unit; and Digital Evidence and Cyber Crimes Unit.

The practice is to assign the lawyers to court for four or five weeks, and then have them in office for a week before going back to court. In the situation, lawyers are frequently spending longer time in court. She points to the example of Jeremy Taylor, the lead prosecutor on the Vybz Kartel case, who was in court from last November to this March. The DPP was full of praise for Taylor, a rising star in the ODPP, who secured the conviction against Kartel and three of his cronies for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams.

Llewellyn says she can't praise her staff enough, often describing them as "the wind beneath my wings".

"We have a very positive leadership style which encourages all my colleagues to feel free to challenge my opinions and affords the freedom to outshine even me in the course of their duties. This has all combined in creating excellent synergies, such that Team DPP's morale is at an all-time high, notwithstanding the resource challenges.

"This translates into the great support system that is engendered in the office and our confidence about delivering high-quality service. To that end, the ODPP in 2014 is a highly sought after career alternative in respect of the legal services that operate in the public service."

Christopher 'Dudus' Coke

While Lewellyn was tackling the immense challenges in the ODPP, she had no time to keep her head down. There were big cases to handle, some demanding the attention of the DPP herself. One of the biggest was the United States' request for the extradition of former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, on drug and gunrunning charges.

In such matters, which fall under Mutual Legal Assistance, Llewellyn is responsible for executing and co-ordinating requests for assistance to and from foreign countries, as well as handling/prosecuting matters involving money laundering and proceeds of crime. She also advises financial crimes investigators.

In the 'Dudus' case, she found herself opposite Solicitor General Douglas Leys with whom she had gone to law school and had a good relationship. Leys was representing the Jamaican Government, while she the US Government. Leys told her one night when they were working late that he was a "creature of his instructions" and that they would be working on different tracks.

"We both agreed that our friendship would survive the case and we had a good laugh over it," she remembers. "But in the end there was a confluence of instructions and his mirrored my position."

Trafigura

She was still relatively new to the Office and thanked head of unit, Taylor, for his tremendous assistance. She also remembers having to send a deputy to represent her at a conference in Samoa because of the extradition matter.

In mutual assistance, she also represented the Dutch Government in the famous Trafigura case, in which several PNP officers were alleged to have received money from Trafigura Beheer at a time when the company had signed a contract to sell Nigerian crude oil for the Jamaican Government.

The Cabinet members named in the case are appealing to the Court of Appeal against the order of the Judicial Review Court that had found in favour of the DPP to have questions answered by them. The Court of Appeal hearing is slated to commence December 1, 2014.

Tension between DPP and OCG

Llewellyn also handled the case of the alleged involvement of late former junior transport minister Joseph Hibbert in the Mabey and Johnson bribery. She ruled that there was not sufficient evidence available for charges to be made against Hibbert, who had consistently maintained that he was innocent of the charges.

But she also ruled that there was "sufficient compelling material" for the police to further investigate allegations of corruption on the part of Hibbert, who was named as one of a dozen politicians and officials allegedly bribed by the British firm for favours around the world. He was said to have collected £100,000 over an eight-year period for favours, including a contract valued at £14 million.

Then there was the local case of Richard Azan, another junior works minister, whom the OCG accused of "political corruption" when he facilitated, without going through the Clarendon Parish Council, the building of shops in the Spalding market to take vendors off the streets and out of the sun. Llewellyn did not find anything on which to

prosecute Azan.

Judged twice as hard by male colleagues

Llewellyn's ruling in both cases came after she perused reports of the contractor general and they fed into unsubstantiated claims that there was tension between her office and the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) first led by Greg Christie and then by Dirk Harrison, a former deputy DPP. Llewellyn shrugs off such claims, saying she doesn't know from whence they came.

"I never go to the gutter with anybody. I can be in the jaws of the beast, going through the fire, I am still going to give justice and fairness. I take the view that everybody deserves respect, even if you don't like me. My reputation is my greatest deprecating asset,"

she says.

Llewellyn believes that, by virtue of being a woman, she has to work harder to gain the same respect as her male counterparts.

"I recognised early that to be a successful prosecuting attorney, who happens to be a woman, I would always have to ensure that competence and capacity were at the top of my list in respect of how I conduct my practice. I was subtly, and also directly, made aware that a prosecutor is going to be judged by a higher standard than defence counsel. As a female professional in this particular arena, and someone who, by virtue of gender, is not really a part of the old boys' club, I have had to deal with being judged twice as hard by my male colleagues. One can also detect that, as a woman in a significant power position, there may be some resentment, but you cannot be detained by that; you must show grace under fire, and competence, even in the face of the greatest challenges.

"I have never resented any negative perceptions attendant on my role as DPP. I believe my public utterances will bear this out, by the fact that I have instead sought gracefully to play the hand I was dealt in any professional situation, conscious of my duty as a public servant giving service above self. For me, professionalism, competence, and the capacity to work hard transcend gender. I take it in my stride and continue to do the best that I can.

"Being DPP means that I am giving service at the highest level. It has meant that I grade myself as a leader at a higher standard and accept the fact that greater scrutiny will likely be visited on me and my actions as DPP because of the fact that I am a woman. In the final analysis, I can stand on my record as a prosecuting attorney who has always strived to maintain excellence," she says.

Yet, that is not her biggest challenge. The daily battle is with the lack of adequate resources to handle the multiplicity of functions which are undertaken by the evolving ODPP. These include insufficient courtrooms, insufficient personnel for some stakeholders in the system, and inadequate physical resources at the ODPP, such as office space to take on more prosecutors.

"Apart from the under-resourcing of our office, the poor remuneration of staff is a great source of angst to all prosecuting attorneys. Our profession is experience-driven, and very often, although our professionals love being prosecutors, it becomes impossible for some to live on the passion and the commitment in service above self.

Llewellyn speaks with special pride for creation and establishment of some landmark projects against the odds, such as the ODPP's website, the 'Decision to Prosecute Protocol' and the 'Disclosure Protocol' through the assistance of their English and Canadian partners.

She notes that there are many committed professionals at every level in Jamaica's justice system. However, given the lack of resources and the fact that there was no clear overhaul or vision which took account of the massive increase in crime and population over the last 25 years, inadequate resourcing had made it difficult to enhance operational efficiencies within the system. Added to this is a very slow overhaul of some of the "anachronistic and cumbersome criminal laws that still exist".

Swimming up stream against lack of resources

Since becoming DPP, she has worked with three justice ministers, two or three police commissioners and at least one chief justice, whom she describes as "well intentioned in their vision and sincere in their hopes" for the justice system.

"I, too, have had to swim upstream in respect of getting resources... If one were to judge based on intentions, the outlook in the short and medium term would be good. However, if the policy imperatives of those in authority do not place the justice system front and centre with respect to the receipt of adequate resources, then all the good intentions from all the stakeholders and leaders will not make the outlook anything other than a dim one," in Llewellyn's judgement.

If she had her way, there would be more prosecutors, more court staff, more judges, more support and IT staff, and a tripling of the courtroom stock islandwide.

Her strong views on gender notwithstanding, the DPP is not one of those women of power who critical men refer to as "iron draws". She enjoys her role as mother to a 15-year-old daughter, joking that "I'm not sure which role is more difficult". The DPP is a lover of music of all genres. "I especially love classical, soft and romantic music. I am a romantic at heart," Llewellyn shares.

"Notwithstanding my workaholic tendencies and the great commitment to service above self in my chosen career, I still manage to have a balanced life. I believe I am a good mother to my daughter; a good daughter to my parents; and always loyal to my siblings and close friends."

The question, as for all trailblazers, is what will future men say of Paula Vanessa Llewellyn?

It is a safe bet that some will remember her as a fearless and passionate advocate who was committed to facilitating the professional growth of her colleagues and giving service above self in the public interest. Others will say she was a leader who made no apology for leading from the front and who, throughout the difficult decisions that had to be made, acted at all times in good faith in service to Jamaica.

"I would hope they could say of me that I gave the best of myself to all whom I served, and that I left the ODPP with an enhanced credibility and in a stronger position than how I found it, and that I remained true to the promise I made to my mother, Mavis Llewellyn, who admonished me just before she died that I better be strong at all times."

Llewellyn's approach to life could perhaps be summed up in a famous quote from US President Theodore Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Errata

In the second instalment of the Paula Llewellyn interview on Friday, I wrote that Llewellyn's main mentor was Norma McIntosh. She was actually Marva McIntosh, retired senior puisne judge, whom she described as "like a second mother to me". The error is terribly regretted.

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