Bar President backs away from ‘unlawful’ claim
July 23, 2013

Bar President backs away from ‘unlawful’ claim

While the St Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association stated last week that the arrest of lawyer Vynnette Frederick was unlawful, President of the Bar Dr Linton Lewis says whether the arrest was legal or not, is an arguable point.{{more}}

Lewis expressed this view last Sunday, during the IKTV television programme “Unrendered”, on which he and Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams were guests.

Last Wednesday, the Bar Association issued a statement condemning Frederick’s arrest as unlawful, and said the act was a threat to the constitutional rights of citizens.

On the programme, Lewis said that whether the arrest was legal or not was an arguable point, because they were dealing with charges that could be dealt with either as indictable (at the High Court) or summarily (at the Magistrate’s Court).

Indictable charges do not require an arrest warrant, while some summary charges do.

“You arrest before you charge, so if you know already what the charges are likely to be, and if you already have written up the charges, then I think that there is a suggestion that it could have been done by summons, and therefore you wouldn’t have this….

“In so far as the unlawfulness of the arrest is concerned… there are some grey areas and the matter is to be determined in the court, whether or not it is unlawful, and I don’t want to go through in any major way at this time any argument about whether or not that was unlawful….” the Bar president said.

Williams, however, said while some of Frederick’s charges did require an arrest warrant, the three new charges can only be tried indictably and did not require an arrest warrant, making the arrest on July 11 legal.

“There was nothing illegal,” Williams stated.

“I am repeating again, one of the charges is indictable and cannot be tried summarily,” he added.

“You are the president of an association that made a definitive statement which I have indicated is a political statement… have come out and said expressly no ifs, no buts, no maybe… that it was of that nature.”

The men also went a few rounds on the programme, which was hosted by Tony Regisford, disagreeing about the manner in which Frederick, a senator of the New Democratic Party (NDP) was arrested.

While having lunch with others at the Oleander Restaurant on July 11, police took Frederick into custody, about two hours after a magistrate had upheld an application by her defence attorneys that the charges against her were defective.

Lewis, also a senator and chairman of the NDP, said that the public arrest was not at all necessary, and that it was done to tarnish the image of Frederick, and came very close to trampling on her rights and freedoms.

“There must have been some intention to cause embarrassment and humiliation…. The matter was no longer in court, she was as you say, refreshing herself, and there were a number of persons in the restaurant,” he pointed out.

“If you intend to re-arrest someone who is an officer of the court, then you have more than sufficient time to do it,” Lewis added.

“You could have called the person to come to the police station; you could have waited until the person is finished and had a chat with that person.

“There was no need to be in full battledress and to have gone into the restaurant giving the impression that person was armed and dangerous, that the person committed some violent offence, or that person may well tamper with the evidence if that person was not arrested immediately or that person was a flight risk….

“She is an officer of the court, she is a member of parliament, the matter has just been discontinued… there was no need for them to act the way they acted at that time and to have that number of police who actually went there all of that was unnecessary…. If there weren’t an intention to humiliate there was no need to try to effect an arrest it could have dealt with it later on or the next day….”

Williams countered that it was the preference of Frederick and her companions at the restaurant to “make a scene,” rather than to go along peacefully with the police officers, who had the necessary documents to make the arrest.

“Dr Lewis is saying why didn’t they finish your lunch and come afterwards, similarly she could have said I am not going anywhere, I am here with my folks as soon as I am finished I will come to the station.

“The thing is that this allegation about intent to embarrass, I don’t see where this belief that what is so special about her to try to embarrass her?” Williams asked.

“…There are different methods in which something could have been apporached but it doesn’t make it illegal or unlawful or wrong,a nd no rights were trampled on in any event….”