Law students, teacher want Barnetts punished
BROWN’S TOWN, St Ann — Like a number of other Jamaicans, two sixth form law students and one of their teachers, who on Friday gathered for a legal summit to explore the theme ‘Transformation through legal education’, expressed disappointment that the clock had run out for the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to criminally charge National Water Commission (NWC) President Mark Barnett and his wife Annette Francis-Barnett.
In a January 10 ruling, DPP Paula Llewellyn indicated that while the couple had breached the National Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act, and the Building Act on the construction of a housing development in St Andrew, the 12-month statute of limitations had already expired.
As such, the DPP ruled that the matter be referred to the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) to conduct an administrative review in accordance with the provisions of the Building Act.
Asked for a reaction two days later, student Verol Williams-Gordon said the ruling had left the perception that some individuals in Jamaican society are above the law.
“If the situation was to involve regular folk it would’ve been investigated much more rigorously,” he argued.
He suggested that one possible punishment could be for the Barnetts’ Kingston 6 development at the heart of the controversy be used to benefit the wider society.
“It could be used as a foster home, a centre for domestic abuse victims or a learning centre for impoverished youths. The possibilities are endless, but retribution must be enacted,” said the aspiring attorney.
“There should be some punishment for disregarding the building regulations, so it will serve as a deterrent for people who disregard these laws in the future,” Williams-Gordon added.
His schoolmate Breanna Brown had a challenge with the nuances of the statute of limitations.
“If all cases were to be tried in a specific time period then no criminal would be brought to justice. What has happened is a big deal and they should be used as an example,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
“Even if it is just a slap on the wrist, they should be charged. Using them as an example will deter others from doing the same; especially because they have power,” she added. “
Their teacher, Adenique Buchanan, was equally adamant that the Barnetts should be punished.
“We want to actually have faith in our justice system and the DPP’s ruling doesn’t do that for us,” she said.
On Friday, the Observer reported that the NWC board is awaiting legal advice on how to proceed in determining whether Barnett will be back on the job. That will likely be influenced by the findings of a KSAMC probe — launched on Friday — into the reports, inspections, and approvals surrounding the construction of the multi-family residential development located at 11 Charlemont Drive, Kingston 6.
Barnett, who was appointed NWC president on August 1, 2015 after serving the company in a number of senior engineering roles, has been on administrative leave since October after the Integrity Commission released its report into allegations of impropriety at the development.