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Criminal defence attorneys say constitutional rights denied with proposed reforms

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Proposed amendments to Criminal Code CAP. 72A will increase penalties for certain sexual offences
  • Move by Attorney General’s office described as unconstitutional
  • Attorneys state proposed amendments drafted without prior consultation 

Six criminal defence attorneys are prepared to legally challenge a move by the Attorney General’s office described as unconstitutional to make amendments to the Criminal Code CAP. 72A, Criminal Procedure Code CAP. 72B and Evidence Act CAP. 92.

Last Friday, 15 November, Attorneys at Law Derick Sylvester, Francis K Paul, Otis Spencer-Diaz, Jerry Edwin, Andre Thomas and Anselm Clouden came together to address their concerns.

Under the proposed amendments of the Criminal Code CAP. 72A, once approved in parliament will see the increase in a penalty upon summary conviction of indecent assault from five to seven years, and the penalty for rape increased from 30 years to life in imprisonment.

This is among several proposed amendments to be made to Criminal Code CAP. 72A and Criminal Procedure Code CAP. 72B and Evidence Act CAP. 92.

The other amendments put forward by the Attorney General’s office include:

  • Remove certain restrictions pertaining to the admission of evidence
  • Expand the classes of persons permitted to have access to or remain in the room or building in which matters are being heard in sexual cases
  • Make special provision for children and other vulnerable witnesses; and
  • Increase penalty for certain sexual offences.

These amendments were brought to the attention of the President of the Grenada Bar Association, Lisa Taylor, via a letter dated 12 November 2019. While not opposing all of the amendments being proposed, these attorneys have rejected the move by the attorney general’s office stating that these amendments can and will infringe on the rights of both accused and complaint, therefore hindering their ability to have due process.

One of the first of many glaring issues highlighted by the attorneys was that these proposed amendments were drafted without prior consultation.

“You cannot ask for feedback after you have drafted bills to be sent to the Houses of Parliament. You have a consultation with the bar first and that consultation was not had,” said Sylvester. “Furthermore, the opening statement in Attorney General Darshan Ramdhani’s letter to the bar which stated that these amendments were prompted “in light of recent cases involving young victims of sexual abuse, the need for review and upgrade of certain aspects of the criminal law has been brought into focus” has also suggested that the Attorney General’s office has allowed public outcry to drive amendment that goes contrary to the constitution.”

Sylvester believes the recent judgment in the case of indecent assault of a minor at the Grenville Magistrate’s Court that sparked outrage in the public domain is what has fuelled this latest move. Although agreeing that the judgment meted out was quite lenient, he believes the approach taken will have long-lasting effects. “You do not let the public drive changes in the law that are contrary to the Constitution. If you’re dissatisfied with his singular sentence you can appeal as they have done in the case, I’m sure the one that emanates from Grenville. You do not take away rights from accused persons by virtue of the fact there’s one singular infraction that you are dissatisfied with. I am not saying that the punishment shouldn’t reflect the extent of the crime, I am saying yes, but I am also saying that the process must be fair.”

Sylvester pointed to a particular amendment to the Evidence Act which seeks to remove corroboration that seems to contradict what is outlined in section (8) (e) of Grenada’s Constitution which states that “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be afforded facilities to examine in person or by his legal representative the witnesses called by the prosecution before the court, and to obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court on the same conditions as those applying to witnesses called by the prosecution.”

Based on the proposed amendment drafted under the Evidence Act, corroboration shall not be necessary for evidence given by a child of tender years in civil or criminal proceedings to be corroborated to determine liability, a conviction or any other issue as the case may be in such proceedings.

“There’s a request to amend the law to remove certain witnesses from being cross-examined. That’s 1; 2 to allow medical evidence to be tended to the court without cross-examination. We just have to think if our brothers and sisters are charged would we like those persons to not have a fair trial? To deny them the right to cross-examine a doctor, to deny them the right to cross-examine the complainant. The Attorney General is asking to remove corroboration is simply this in layman terms: [he] is asking to remove section 2 or 3 from the criminal procedure code, corroboration is any evidence that is material in nature that tend to give support and or lend credence to the evidence of a particular complainant. The request is to remove corroboration. So, what [he] is asking to do is to vitiate the rights of an accused person,” said Sylvester.

Edwin lent his support towards the condemnation of the proposed amendments and he has expressed disappointment with the approach by the attorney general’s office and has called for these amendments to be withdrawn immediately. “You cannot take a piece of paper give it to the parliament and say, you know, the public wants this. Let’s give it to them. There are not enough rooms in Richmond Hill that could hold the young men who may fall victim to this unfortunate proposed piece of legislation. We are open to our discussion. He should withdraw this; don’t fight with the bar. Don’t fight with the Grenadian public. Don’t try to take away the rights of the Grenadians. Let’s sit down and do this the right way.”

Paul said based on these amendments, anyone charged with sexual offence will have their cloak of presumed innocence stripped away. He believes that there are more pressing matters with regards to prison reform that are not being addressed. “There are so many things, issues, burning issues that need to be focused upon by the attorney general as my learned colleague. Sylvester said look at the conditions in the prison. You have what you call the main remand block which supposed to house about 10 [people]; it’s housing more than 30 and that’s a fact and when you go there you see guys sleeping on cardboard. They have no mattress after 4 o’clock. You know what the bathroom is? It’s a bucket.”

Sylvester provided insight into what led to the light judgement meted out to Treverson Roberts who was convicted of indecent assault against a minor. According to the judgment which was since appealed, Roberts was sentenced to pay a fine of $1,500 to the State of Grenada and $600 to the family of the child as compensation for medical expenses.

Sylvester said based on scanty evidence presented by the prosecution department, the magistrate had no other option but to impose the judgment. He said this now lends to the need for lawyers to be prosecuting matters in the magistrate court rather than the usual prosecution officer attached to the RGPF. “When you give a judicial officer [a] scanty bit of evidence in relation to an offence, she’s only going to sentence based on what you would have given to her. I have always championed for this that we should have lawyers prosecuting. I have said so on many a time. Lawyers should be prosecuting. I’m not saying the police don’t try and do a good job, but the same police officer who is going to arrest you, is the same police department that is now prosecuting you.”

He continued, “I’m saying we need to have lawyers in the magistrate court.”

Efforts to reach Attorney General Darshan Ramdhani proved futile.

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International Civil Aviation Day | United Nations

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Civil aircraft at airport terminal. Photo: Serge Davidyants

The purpose of International Civil Aviation Day is to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States, and of the unique role of ICAO in helping States to cooperate and realize a truly global rapid transit network at the service of all mankind.

As the UN and world nations have now adopted Agenda 2030, and embarked on a new era in global sustainable development, the importance of aviation as an engine of global connectivity has never been more relevant to the Chicago Convention’s objectives to look to international flight as a fundamental enabler of global peace and prosperity.

Every five years, coinciding with ICAO anniversaries (2014/2019/2024/2029/etc.), the ICAO Council establishes a special anniversary theme for International Civil Aviation Day. Between these anniversary years, Council representatives select a single theme for the full four-year intervening period.

 

75 Years of Connecting the World

Seventy-five years after ICAO’s foundation, the International Civil Aviation network carries over four billion passengers annually.

The global Air Transport sector supports 65.5 million jobs and USD 2.7 trillion in global economic activity, with over 10 million women and men working within the industry to ensure 120,000 flights and 12 million passengers a day are carried safely to their destinations. The wider supply chain, flow-on impacts and jobs in tourism made possible by air transport show that at least 65.5 million jobs and 3.6 per cent of global economic activity are supported by the aviation industry according to research by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

Learn more about ICAO 75 Years of Connecting the World.

 

 

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This Day in History | NOW Grenada

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by John Angus Martin, A-Z of Grenada Heritage

On this day, 7 December 1976, Grenada witnessed its most contentious general elections to date when opposition parties formed a coalition, the People’s Alliance (PA), to challenge the electoral monopoly of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of Prime Minister Gairy, but lost.

In an attempt to end the GULP’s seemingly unshakeable electoral monopoly, the three main opposition political parties–the leftist New Jewel Movement (NJM) under Maurice Bishop (nominating seven candidates), the centrist Grenada National Party under Herbert Blaize (nominating five candidates), and the pro-business United People’s Party under Winston Whyte, a former GULP senator (nominating two candidates)–formed a coalition party, the People’s Alliance, to contest the 1976 general elections. Ideological differences between the parties created some tension, as was evident with the establishment of the PA only a few days prior to the deadline for nomination. The PA brought together three politically diverse groups, with only one thing in common, a strong desire to be rid of PM Gairy and the GULP.

The failure of the NJM to remove Eric Gairy from power by mass protest in 1974 had forced its leaders to participate in parliamentary elections, even though they believed the electoral process to be “woefully deficient.” The youth vote, from which the NJM derived much support, became important, especially since 18-year-olds were eligible to vote for the first time. Though the PA had hoped that its broad-based support would be enough to defeat PM Gairy, it was confronted with a number of political obstacles. PM Gairy’s supposed abuses and corruption of the electoral process, and the passing of a number of laws like the banning of the use of public address systems by opposition parties, thwarted the opposition’s every move. The GULP government had a monopoly of the airwaves, and even controlled the choice of an opposition election symbol.

In the end, the PA won six of the 15 contested constituencies, capturing just under 49% of the popular vote. It later protested that the election was not free and fair. It was one of the most hotly contested elections in many years. Despite the PA’s loss, the GULP government was confronted with a noticeable opposition for the first time in a decade. By 1979 many believed that “the Parliament had degenerated into a theatrical act, with Gairy always the leading actor,” and the opposition, under Bishop, a reluctant supporting cast. Some have suggested that “the Grenada Parliament had become a caricature of the Westminster model and, moreover, reflected the inherent weaknesses of that model,” leading to disillusionment in the process, and ultimately resulting in the Revolution. If there were winners among the PA, it was the NJM, which won over new supporters and gained a national platform for its leftist views.

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RGPF retirees encouraged to continue serving their communities

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Police retirees urged to use job knowledge and experience to serve communities
  • 20 police officers of various ranks with a combined 587 years of service, retired

The underlining message embedded in most of the addresses to the retirees of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) was to use their knowledge and experience gained on the job to continue to serve their communities.

On Wednesday, 4 December, twenty police officers of various ranks from ASP to Royal Constable with a combined 587 years of service, retired from the RGPF. The Police Welfare Association staged a farewell ceremony in their honour at the Special Services Unit (SSU) compound at Camp Saline.

These police officers entered the service at various times, dating back to 1984, and in recognition of their services each received a plaque and medal of service in recognition of their contribution to the RGPF. As customary, the retirees marched off to Auld Lang Syne under a guard of honour, and elicited tears and applause from their comrades as they gave their final salute to Acting Police Commissioner, Edvin Martin.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Michael François, reminded them not to allow their talents and abilities to wither away but to put them to good use in their respective communities.

“As you retire you can look back and feel part of the part you played in seeking to build a culture in the RGPF that reflect values that underpin the service that we provide in many ways. Life begins at retirement today, and by today’s standard you are young men and women with a lot to offer to your immediate communities and to the wider society. I order you to reflect on how you are going to use your wealth of experience and talent for the common good. It is always said that the only true retirement is that of the heart. I know that your hearts are not retired and they are in the right place,” ACP François said.

Chairman of the RGPF Welfare Association, Inspector Simon Douglas, outlined areas where retirees can focus their attention post-retirement to have a more meaning life: to build a strong spiritual connection with their creator, improve their social interaction, maintain a positive attitude towards retirement and maintain a healthy body through diet and exercise. He also stressed that they now have a duty to be more integrated within the fabric of their communities. “Be intentional in creating your social network. During retirement also understand that folks from the job aren’t very likely to be a part of your post-retirement life. For those of you who are solitary try to discover the engage others; join community groups with people of similar interests. Volunteer in organisations that help people, for giving others brings the greatest sense of fulfilment. Use your knowledge and experiences to guide and encourage those of us who are still on the job.”

Kerabe Belfon, a former officer of the RGPF delivered the charge. He emphasised the importance of retirees to remember that life does not end after retirement and that they are still expected to play a leadership role in their communities. “I challenge you to enter the phase with a sense of purpose so that you could remain in good health and prosper. I understand the fight. I understand what it means to finish the race. I tell you brethren when my time arrived I finished that race sprinting. As retiring [people] I say to you, finish the race sprinting; finish the race strong so that when you move into that new phase the energy that you have you [will] transform it in realising the goals that you have beyond the RGPF, beyond service to this nation.”

2019 RGPF retirees:

  1. Supt. Terrence Noel
  2. WSupt. Lynda Francis
  3. ASP Terrence Julien
  4. ASP Renwick Francis
  5. Insp 664 David Lewis
  6. Sgt 141 Denis Burke
  7. Cpl 612 Eric Bascombe
  8. Cpl 779 Reynold St. John
  9. PC 284 Carl Fletcher (deceased)
  10. PC 60 Lincoln Roberts
  11. PC 655 Roderick Williams
  12. PC 790 Thaddeus Lewis
  13. WPC 188 Agnes Mc Lawrence
  14. WPC 759 Carol Horsford
  15. PC 507 Desmond Alexander
  16. PC 566 Wilson Richards
  17. WRC Jean Chetram
  18. RC Lennard Dickson
  19. RC Herman James
  20. Betty Ann Joseph

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