No political benefit from prosecuting Frederick – Astaphan
September 18, 2012
No political benefit from prosecuting Frederick – Astaphan

A lawyer for Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said the perjury charges against opposition senator Vynnette Frederick are not a “political witch-hunt”.{{more}}

“There is no political benefit or capital involving prosecuting someone who can never win a seat in any constituency, in any election,” Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan said on radio on Sunday.

Frederick, a lawyer, was last Wednesday released on $10,000 bail in connection with three perjury charges.

The charges stem from affidavits she presented to the court in relation to private criminal complaints against Gonsalves, in connection to statements he made in the 2010 election campaign.

Frederick’s father, Bayliss Frederick, also a lawyer, told reporters last Wednesday that the charges against his daughter were “political posturing”.

He said there was a matter before the Court of Appeal in which his daughter sued the prime minister “for the very subject of this perjury thing” and if Vynnette wins, the perjury charges “will automatically evaporate…”

But Astaphan, a Dominican, who was part of the legal team representing Gonsalves in the election-related cases, said he does not know what people mean by their references to a political witch-hunt.

“… as far as I know, the only person from our legal team, who was in anyway involved in this was Richard Williams, who was asked for a statement by the police…

“When private criminal complaints were filed against Ralph Gonsalves [after the December 2010 general elections], what was that?” Astaphan further said.

“What on God’s earth was that when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) demanded the production of evidence and there was none…” he further said, noting that higher courts upheld the DPP’s decision to discontinue the cases.

He further said the case against Gonsalves was a political witch-hunt because they did not result from the DPP or police investigating and bringing a charge.

“These are people with an obvious political axe to grind on the back of Dr Ralph Gonsalves,” he said of the opposition members.

Astaphan further said that after the ULP won the 2010 vote eight seats to the NDP’s seven, no election petitions were brought during the 21 days that the Representation of the People’s Act allows.

“They (opposition personnel) waited for several months to file criminal complaints of the most spurious kind against elected members of the House and … That’s a political witch-hunt, because people were making a calculated political decision,” Astaphan said.

“These were decisions made by people with an obvious political interest in the outcome of the election and to embarrass elected members … of the Unity Labour Party.”

He described as “extraordinary” the allegation of political witch hunt, adding that the Court of Appeal indicated “that something was seriously wrong in the evidence being advanced to the court”.

“So, this is not a situation where the police … decide ‘Leh we see who from the NDP we going to charge’ or that we need to score political points because she is an elected member of the House. She’s not!

“… So, when you eliminate the obvious lack of a political consequence, what is the political benefit?” he asked, adding, “… there is no evidence whatsoever of any political involvement by the executive branch of the government in giving directions to the police and the DPP.”

Astaphan said Williams “presented a formal complaint and full information and documents to the DPP.

“I think he (the DPP) passed it on to the police or some other lawyer in his office. I think, according to Richard, he did not think he should deal with this personally or directly. That’s my understanding.”

He further said “some prosecutions are required to set an example” to masses that if the masses are “not going to get away with conduct like that, their lawyers should not either.

“… because I think there is a higher obligation on a lawyer to come with the utmost clean hands,” Astaphan said.

“… When a lawyer does something that the High Court criticises, I think the prosecution authorities need to raise an eyebrow and take a second look.”

Astaphan had said in June that he was considering asking Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan to institute disciplinary proceedings against the senator. (