Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Letter: The constitution says the DDP is accountable to the cabinet

Newsday must be congratulated for its civicmindedness in publishing the entire statement recently made by incumbent Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard, S.C., concerning the Guanapo Church for Juliana Pena

Statements of the sort are one of the best methods of learning whether our public officials are up to the task, or not up to the task—they can help build a case for credit to be given, or provide eyeopeners, which lead to some different arrangement be made for getting the job done.

Two words in paragraph 18 of the DPP’s statement leaped at me, triggering a Eureka Moment which I’d like to share. The DPP said, “It should be noted that there was a Cabinet Minute which mandated that a lease of the land be granted, subject to the approval of the Town and Country Planning Division".

The two words are, “subject to” and they sent me scurrying for a copy of the Constitution.

What I subsequently found in the Constitution has convinced me that if the DPP is runaway horse he could be corralled without much fanfare. 

The DPP’s office was created by Section 90 of our Constitution, not to be a court—to be a public servant whose job is to conduct prosecutions in criminal matters on the State’s behalf. This is fitting and proper, for the prevention, detection and prosecution of crime are the business of the Executive arm of government—if they foul up, they could lose office—while the pronouncing of guilt or innocence and sentencing is the Judiciary’s trade.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is therefore an Executive department and, as a department of the Executive, it must be accountable to the Cabinet.

The argument is bolstered by the absence of the word “independent” in relation to the overall authority of the DPP—nowhere does the Constitution, or any other law I can find, state the DPP is not answerable to anyone. 

The gravity of the matter requires such a thing to be stated in black and white, to dispel all doubt, not to be left hanging to make people feel they’ve walked into the cinema halfway into the movie. Presently, the best the DPP can assert is his office is separate and distinct. But “separate and distinct” does not necessarily mean “independent”.

Finally, viewed alongside Section 90 (1) of the Constitution it’s inevitable the whole DPP arrangement depends on whatever responsibilities or duties or powers the Office of Attorney General may be given from time to time—section 90(1) says, “The provisions of this section shall, subject to section 76(2), have effect with respect to the conduct of prosecutions.” Section 90(2) then creates the post of DPP.

If the intention was to establish the DPP as a stand-alone arrangement, the wording and order would’ve been entirely different—section 90(1) would have said, “There shall be a Director of Public Prosecutions who shall have jurisdiction over the prosecution of criminal matters as follows…”, then gone on to recite what, when, how and where the DPP could flex.

Unlike the ones who wrote, passed and amended the Constitution over the years, I’m not a learned man. 

However, having keenly followed the movie since before Independence, I have accumulated enough commonsense to know what “subject to” unavoidably implies.

Grantley McNaughton, Retiree,
Coora, Siparia.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai