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‘Ramdeen misled the Parliament’

Trinidad Express / A storm in a teacup! That is how Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has described criti­cisms made by United National Congress (UNC) Senator Gerald Ramdeen on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill, 2017, in the Senate on ­Tuesday. In response, the Attorney ­General accused Ramdeen of “wilfully misrepresenting” the Parliament, by referring to an unreported High Court case, that the proposed amendment to Section 4(A)(6) of the Offences against the Person Act, Chap 11:08, was in conflict with the judgment in the case. Al-Rawi stated that in the unreported case of Gilbert Evelyn v The Attorney General, CV 2007-04514, cited by Ramdeen, who had represented the claimant in the case—The State v Evelyn, Gilbert H.C.60/1995—the court ruled the words “until the President’s pleasure is known” should be substituted by the words “until the court’s pleasure is known”. More efficient system “The remainder of the section, which relates to the verdict of a jury, was not affected by this case and the proposed bill, which seeks to amend Section 4A(6) to include the verdict of a judge, is similarly not affected by this case. The judgment effectively changes the word ‘President’s’ to ‘Court’s’,” he said. The Government’s proposed amendments to Section 4A(6) of the Offences Against the Person Act did not deal with any part of the language of s4A(6), which was modified by the judgment relied upon by Ramdeen!” the Attorney General stressed. “Despite this, Senator Ramdeen sought to mislead the Parliament by alleging that the entirety of the proposed Section 4A(6) was unconstitutional,” he noted. The Attorney General said the bill seeks to introduce the right of an accused person to elect a trial by a judge alone instead of a trial by a judge and jury. He said this mode of ­trial exists in several civilised ­jurisdictions around the world and is seen as a more efficient system than trial by jury. “The bill does not abolish jury trials, but instead offers an alternative to jury trials to an accused ­person,” he stressed. He said the bill was one of many reform proposals to address the maladies of the criminal justice system, as it is recognised that in the fight against crime the justice system must work efficiently in order to ensure those who commit crimes are tried and sentenced in a timely manner. Al-Rawi said it was unfortunate that judgments, as those pointed out by Ramdeen, which seek to amend the written laws of Trinidad and Tobago, are not immediately included in such laws. The process as it currently exists requires written laws to be read in light of such judgments until such time as the written law is revised by the Law Revision Department. The Attorney General referred to a report from the Law Revision Department (which he also ­released). Missed opportunity The Law Revision Department report, signed by chairman Larraine Lutchmedial, noted the ­Offences against the Persons Act was last ­updated and published in 2011. The commission should have then taken the opportunity at that time to expunge those words from Section 4A(6) declared to be illegal and Section 4(A)(7), which was declared to be unconstitutional by the courts in 2007, Lutchmedial stated. “Unfortunately, this was not done,” said Lutchmedial, ­adding failure to do so was a “grave ­oversight on the part of the ­commission”. She added it would be helpful if an arrangement can be made whereby the Law Revision Commission can be notified of such judgments by the registrar of the court, since it was difficult to keep track of such cases while they are on-going or awaiting appeal and which cease to be in operation from the date the judgment is handed down. The Attorney General said Ramdeen, who was involved and aware of the case and who operated in close proximity with the UNC, had a “moral and ethical responsibility to the nation” to advise the then-UNC government and its attorney general, Anand Ramlogan, and its minister of legal affairs, Prakash Ramadhar, that these amendments to the law should have been made when the laws were upda­ted and published in 2012 and 2014 as the case was ­determined in 2009.

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