Manner of Frederick’s arrest, legal barbarism, says former Attorney General
July 26, 2013

Manner of Frederick’s arrest, legal barbarism, says former Attorney General

A former Attorney General here has described the manner in which Senator Vynnette Frederick was taken into custody recently as an “abuse” of the prosecutorial system, “uncivilized behaviour” and “legal barbarism”.{{more}}

Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell, speaking on Monday evening, on his weekly television programme “The Law and You,” on SVG TV, said the fact that something is lawful, does not mean it is morally right.

He said it is within the law to re-arrest a person against whom charges have been brought and thrown out by the magistrate, for lack of sufficient particulars.

“So, the law does not prohibit the bringing of fresh charges and it is not unlawful to bring fresh charges, as some have said; certainly not my understanding of the law,” said Campbell, who was Attorney General in SVG for eight and a half years, under the New Democratic Party administration of Sir James Mitchell.

In his commentary, Campbell said he did not intend to comment on whether Frederick is guilty or not guilty as charged, and nothing he said “should be taken as indicating a view, as to innocence or guilt, when the charges are eventually dealt with.”

The charges against the senator follow a judgement handed down by the OECS Court of Appeal on May 31, 2012, which indicated that Frederick intentionally gave evidence which was untrue, in a complaint she brought against Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, following the 2010 general elections.

Following the findings of the Court of Appeal, six charges of making false declarations and swearing falsely were brought against Frederick. On July 11, 2013, at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, magistrate Ricky Burnette struck out the case, upholding an application by Frederick’s attorneys that the six charges lacked particularity.

About two and a half hours after Frederick was released from court, she was re-arrested while having lunch, and slapped with nine new charges, six of which were similar to the original charges, except that they now include particulars. The three new charges accuse her of fabricating evidence.

Campbell said he was not saying that Frederick is entitled to “special treatment” because she is an attorney, a senator in the House of Assembly or from a prominent family.

“I am simply saying she is entitled to be treated as a human being,” the veteran attorney said.

“It is quite clear to me, when you send a group of police officers to arrest someone having lunch at a restaurant, within three hours of the time the person had faced charges, which were thrown out for lack of particulars, you are not simply out to make an arrest; you are out to humiliate, and to embarrass. You are out for vengeance, not for justice, and I take very strong objection to treating any human being that way,” he said.

Campbell said one or two police officers could have gone to Frederick’s office or home and told her they needed to take her back into custody, as there were fresh charges against her.

Clearly incensed, the queen’s counsel reminded his audience that Frederick is someone’s child, and had she been one of his four daughters, he would be awaiting the laying of a charge against him.

“That is treatment you reserve for terrorists and hardened criminals, not a normal citizen. So that those who are involved in making the decision to take her into custody in that manner should think again,” he said.

Campbell also questioned how did the police know where to find Frederick.

“Somebody must have followed her,” he said.

“So, somebody gets annoyed and decides they are going to teach her a lesson; so, they decide to abuse the authority reposed in them … and humiliate the young lady in that sort of way…

“This is St Vincent and the Grenadines. We are not supposed to behave in that uncivilized, barbarous way at all,” he said.

Campbell also asked where did the three new charges come from.

“Where did they come from? Were they being put up in a refrigerator waiting patiently until that moment to bring them forth? If they were matters upon which she could have been charged originally, why wait until now to bring three fresh charges? Come on, something is wrong. The prosecutorial system has been abused,” the former Minister of Legal Affairs said.

He said he does not necessarily believe “all the exaggerations” that Frederick was “physically manhandled,” but the manner of her arrest has all the ingredients of being “motivated by malice, ill will and spite, things that should not enter into the deliberation or thinking of anybody in the prosecution service or the police force…”

Campbell warned that “what goes around, comes around,” and one should be “careful how authority is being exploited, because today for you, tomorrow for me…. Those involved should be ashamed of that sort of uncivilized behaviour and the motives which led to that legal barbarism…,” he said.

The Queen’s Counsel also congratulated magistrate Ricky Burnette on ruling as “he sees it, from his legal knowledge and training…”

“… Congratulations to Mr Burnette for ruling with courage on a matter on which he ruled,” Campbell said.