NWC president and his wife to escape criminal charges despite breaching NRCA Act
Suspended head of the National Water Commission Mark Barnett and his wife attorney-at-law Annette Francis-Barnett will not face criminal charges despite being found guilty of breaching the National Resources Conservation Authority Act (NRCA).
In a ruling dated January 10, 2024, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn said, “though the allegations [against the two] support the laying of criminal charges against Mark Barnett and Annette Francis-Barnett for breaching the environmental permit, which is an offence under the NRCA, the initiation of prosecution is time sensitive and it having not been initiated within 12 months of the breach being identified the criminal action is now statue barred. Therefore, there can be no prosecution.”
In her ruling the DPP noted that the report and investigation conducted by the Integrity Commission (IC) highlights the failure of the functionaries to treat with and escalate the observed breaches of the NRCA and said, “this inaction conclusively barred any sanction being effected consequent upon a successful prosecution”.
The DPP was responding to an Integrity Commission report tabled in Parliament last October which was submitted to her for a ruling.
The IC Investigation Report concerned allegations of irregularities in the approval and post-permit monitoring processes in relation to the construction of a residential development by the Barnetts at 11 Charlemont Drive, Kingston 6.
In his findings the IC’s Director of Investigations (DI) Kevon Stephenson concluded that building, planning, and environmental permits required for the construction of a development, consisting of 12 one-bedroom units at the upper St Andrew premises, were issued by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to Barnett and his wife.
“The DI concludes that Mr Mark Barnett and Mrs Annette Francis Barnett breached the building, planning and environmental permits which were issued by the KSAMC and NEPA for the development…The DI’s conclusion is premised on the fact that the referenced development consists of six two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units instead of 12 one-bedroom units.
“The DI concludes that there was a clear intention on the part of Mr Mark Barnett and Mrs Annette Francis Barnett to contravene the terms of the building and planning permit which was issued by KSAMC,” said the report as it was pointed out that in there was another clause which indicated that the Barnetts would retain ownership of two two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units.
“Clearly, it would be a practical impossibility for the developer to have complied with both of the referenced clause,” said Stephenson.
In his recommendation Stephenson called on the KSAMC to take action against the Barnetts and the developer Phillip Smith for breaching the building permit which was granted for the development.
“After consultations with the director of corruption, the DPP is hereby alerted to the noted breaches of the applicable legislation for appropriate action, in relation to the prosecution of any viable offence as the DPP may determine,” said Stephenson.
In the matter of the KSAMC the DPP ruled that the body should conduct an administrative review in accordance with the provisions of the Building Act and decide if an invitation is to be issued to the police to conduct an investigation into possible breaches of the Act.