April 24, 2015
I had nothing to do with teacher being charged – PM

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has distanced himself from the criminal charges which were brought against schoolteacher Jozette Bibby-Bowens.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, one week after the case against the teacher was discontinued by the Director {{more}}of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin Williams, Gonsalves said in his 14 years as Prime Minister, he has never spoken to any Commissioner of Police or Director of Public Prosecutions about prosecuting an individual.

“I had absolutely no conversation with the police or with the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge this lady. I didn’t go through any intermediary for them to represent on my behalf. I would have acted improperly, had that been done,” he said.

“From the moment that this happened and subsequently, those who had an interest, not in truth, but in hysteria and in some cases, persons who make judgements about other persons on the basis of themselves, it is political. It is pointed and a lot of the commentary pointed to Ralph. The allegation was made in several quarters and I heard it, I saw it in print … it’s political and it was done really by Ralph to embarrass this young lady because of what she wrote,” the Prime Minister said.

Gonsalves revealed that his immediate reaction when he heard about the arrest of the schoolteacher was to wonder why Bibby-Bowens was being charged.

Gonsalves told reporters that while he is not saying that the arresting police officers acted illegally, in his opinion, if someone was arrested on a school compound, it would have to be in relation to a homicide or of a nature that requires grave urgency that needs to be dealt with immediately.

“I, as a citizen and as a lawyer, I would always want to see things and certainly in matters which I have a say, I would always want to see things being reasonable and proportionate, even if they are legal,” he said.

“While I was being beaten up by a number of people, I kept my silence because for me to have uttered then what I am now saying, would have compromised and interfered with unduly and improperly in an ongoing case, a criminal case before the magistrate, before the law courts and I wouldn’t do that….”

The Minister of National Security revealed that information reaching him indicated that there was communication between the DPP and police investigators attached to the Major Crime Unit. However, Gonsalves stated that this communication was not consistent with the arrest at the school or the charging of the teacher.

He added that the officer assigned responsibility of the case was “a bright young investigator.”

“The questions I have in my head: how could senior investigators have had a young investigator assigned to this matter without the necessary supervision? This is not a case of saying that the young investigator acted on her own, because that is not the case,” Gonsalves said.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister stressed that persons should not assume that the DPP gave instructions for the police to charge Bibby-Bowens. He said while some may wonder why the DPP was able to withdraw charge, if he had nothing to do with charging in the first place.

“We all know that this DPP acts reasonable and rationally. He has a track record of that,” Gonsalves said.

On Monday, March 2, the graduate teacher was arrested and charged with two counts of obscene publication for posts she allegedly made on Facebook on February 17, 2015. Bibby-Bowens pleaded not guilty to both charges. The matter was discontinued by the DPP, Colin Williams, on April 16, one day before Bibby-Bowens was set to appear in court.

Bibby-Bowens was charged under Section 284 (1) (a), chapter 171 of the Revised Edition of the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines 2009.

The section states: “For the purpose of, or by way of, trade, or for the purpose of distribution or public exhibition, makes, produces or has in his possession any obscene writing, drawing, print, painting, printed matter, photographs, pictures, poster, emblems, photos, films, discs or any other obscene objects tending to corrupt morals.”