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Why ask PM for probe?

By JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, April 30 2014

click on pic to zoom in
SENIOR COUNSEL Israel Khan ...
SENIOR COUNSEL Israel Khan ...

SENIOR COUNSEL Israel Khan has called on former Solicitor General (SG) Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, SC, to justify her letter to the Prime Minister calling for an investigation to determine whether attorneys involved in prison litigation are engaged in unethical business ventures.

Khan, in a statement yesterday, said the allegations by the former SG were unspecified and ambiguous and the veracity of the allegations of corrupt or fraudulent practices must first be determined.

“A call for an investigation especially by a high office holder as the Solicitor General should be made after considered deliberation and such decisions should be made in a manner that maintains objectivity, impartiality and fairness throughout the decision and must be made competently and with the highest levels of integrity,” Khan said.

“The standard required to make such a call must be that there are sufficient facts to permit a reasonable inference that a violation has occurred. The exact standard must be that there is present adequate evidence in support of its conclusions to have an investigation. Ms Honeywell SC therefore must provide some reliable information as to justify her letter,” he added. Donaldson-Honeywell, who resigned from the Office of the Attorney General on November 12, 2013 and officially exited the ministry on January 14, wrote to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on August 30, 2013 asking her to investigate circumstances, “that may amount inter alia to breaches of professional ethics by the attorneys involved and may have the effect of perverting the course of justice in litigation against the State.”

She referred to the retaining of lawyers by the Office of the AG who defended the State in civil law claims while going against the State in prison litigation.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, the former SG also referred to the concerns raised by High Court Master Patricia Sobion-Awai who found that by lifting significant portions of court filings from previous litigation by prisoners making claims against the State, prison inmate Jamal Sambury sought to mislead the court as to his injuries and the actual circumstances of his assault and battery.

Following her initial letter to the PM, Donaldson-Honeywell again wrote to Persad-Bissessar indicating that there was no need for the prime minister to investigate as a probe was being conducted. In a statement issued to the media on Monday, Donaldson-Honeywell said she held a meeting with Attorney General (AG) Anand Ramlogan on this issue, “it was agreed that there should be a general investigation into matters adversely affecting the State’s defence in prison litigation.”

Donaldson-Honeywell said matters to be addressed concerning prison litigation were brought to her attention by concerned persons, including the Prisons Officers Association.

Donaldson-Honeywell continued, “The main thrust of my letter was simply to get action on an investigation into matters adversely affecting the State’s defence into prison litigation.”

She said Ramlogan received her August 2013 letter from Persad-Bissessar and called her in to discuss it. Donaldson-Honeywell said during her discussions with Ramlogan, she was assured that “steps would be taken to have all concerns raised addressed.” Khan in his letter said the issue of the Prisons Officers Association complaining about the failures of the Solicitor General office poorly managing and defending prisons officers was raised from as far back as 2005. Khan said it appeared that the former SG’s letters were drafted in hopes of “deflecting the true source of the concerns of the prison officer associations and as a quick attempt to excuse and cover up the embarrassment of the failing losing rate of her department. “I say the quickest way to save face from a loss is to accuse the other side of cheating.”

“Therefore I call on Ms Honeywell to provide adequate evidence, detailed allegations and reliable information to justify her most serious call for investigation into a conspiracy,” he added.

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