DPP hopes for another shot at gangs
50-accused case on the horizon; a 1st in CaribbeanFriday, July 10, 2020
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
THE challenge of prosecuting a 50-accused gang case, a first in the Caribbean, is one of the major reasons Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has decided to take up Prime Minister Andrew Holness' offer to stay on the job for another three years.
Speaking on the Jamaica Observer's sister radio station The Edge yesterday morning, she explained that the pending case “will have security issues, will need the deployment of at least six prosecutors, and will be very complex”.
She told host Richie B, “It will be very sensitive and it really will need a DPP who has the experience, in terms of dealing with these sorts of matters, in the back and [acting] like a general.”
The DPP and her team will likely relish another chance to take on gang-related cases after Wednesday's unexpected not guilty verdict for six accused of being members of the notorious King Valley gang. In reacting to the ruling, a member of the prosecuting team said the loss would mean a reassessment of how they would approach pending gang-related cases. The prosecution's case in the King Valley gang trial relied heavily on the testimony of one star witness, who claimed to be a former gang member with intricate details about crimes committed by his alleged former cronies. Chief Justice Bryan Sykes was unconvinced by the witness's testimony, however, citing a lack of corroborating evidence.
For the upcoming historic case in which 50 accused gang members will be brought before the courts, the DPP's team believes her presence will be critical to their success and has, she said, asked her to remain in the role for at least another two years.
“I told them that what they really want is my alligator skin to take all the battering. So when I take all the battering, all these things would have been cleared and I would have left my legacy and my successor in a good position with a strong office and not having to go through all this unfinished work,” the DPP quipped during the radio interview.
She added that the ongoing renovations of her offices and the takeover of the clerk of courts islandwide by her offices were the other two reasons she had opted to remain on the job.
“We are going through massive renovations at the office now, which commenced in my tenure, and it really needs a lot of close handling to make sure that these renovations are done in a way that makes everyone happy and comfortable, both members of staff as well as the contractors and the minister of justice. It has caused a lot of upheaval, but we are managing well,” the DPP explained.
“Secondly, there is the whole issue of unification, which is something the Cabinet has signed off on, where the Office of the DPP will be taking over the 66 clerk of courts islandwide. Now that is a very delicate, complex, sensitive administrative situation, which is going to need tremendous experience in the DPP at the helm, in terms of management, administration and actual knowledge, in terms of how the particular courts work,” she added.
The matter of the DPP's tenure became the subject of much public debate following a Gleaner report that Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips had written to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in March, citing a poor track record of corruption prosecutions by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and objecting to an extension of her tenure, which officially ends when she turns 60 this September.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he had dismissed that objection and was pushing ahead with a recommendation to the governor general for a three-year extension of her position.
Yesterday, Dr Phillips, commenting on the matter for the first time since the Gleaner article, said he felt compelled to “set elements of the record straight”.
According to Phillips, following communication from the prime minister on February 7, 2020 regarding the request from the DPP to have her tenure extended for five years, he replied to the prime minister on March 2, 2020 outlining the views of the Opposition, but to date has “had no response from the prime minister”.
He said subsequently, in May, following communication with the governor general, he communicated directly with Holness.
“At no time did I say, as the prime minister stated, nor has anyone else, speaking on my behalf, said that the appointment of a new director of public prosecutions should be withheld in order to facilitate a new Administration, or any incoming Government. Any suggestion in that regard is palpably false. That type of fabrication by the prime minister is totally unacceptable,” Dr Phillips charged yesterday.
He noted that the appointment of a DPP is done by the Public Service Commission, with only an extension of tenure requiring consultation between the prime minister and leader of the Opposition.
“In this instant case, that would have to be completed before September of this year. As there is no constitutional requirement that could enforce the calling of elections prior to September; such was never a consideration,” he said further.
He also said the exchange of letters took place long before there were any of the current discussions about the DPP's findings in relation to Lisa Hanna or any other Member of Parliament, as is being implied in some parts of the press.
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