Understanding the Law
August 2, 2013


The Editor of the Searchlight newspaper asked a pertinent question, “prosecution or persecution?” in prefacing her editorial of Tuesday, July 16, 2013. This question was posed on the incident of the re-arrest of Senator Vynnette Frederick early in July. From comments made on both sides of the political divide, it appears to be both. Many wondered if it were vengeance, spite and a desire to humiliate. {{more}}Supporters and non-supporters of the senator were outraged, and rightly so, at the high-handed action of the DPP’s office, which ordered the re-arrest of the defendant.

The DPP claims that the re-arrest of Miss Frederick was legal, but I will not comment on the law at this point or on the case in court. It is a re-arrest, because she was arrested before on similar charges of perjury. The case was in court for some time. The Chief Magistrate had recused herself and it fell to the magistrate for the Georgetown district. The defendant informed the court that she could not plead to the charges since they were not particularized. In April, when the matter was called, it was stood down to address the defects. It was a long time for representatives of the Crown to get their house in order and on July 11, 2013, it appears that they still had not provided the particulars requested. The magistrate was not dealing with the substantive matter; he was responding to certain challenges by the defendant to enable her to plead properly. No lawyer would allow his client to plead to some vague charges and it is not expected that the defendant, who has represented persons in the past, would plead to defective charges.

It is no fault of Miss Frederick’s that the representative of the Crown produced poor, shoddy, work and refused to respect the directions of the magistrate. The magistrate had no choice but to dismiss the matter, because failing to do so, would show bias in favour of the Crown. The magistrate did what was fair in the law by dismissing the charges. It is no fault of the senator’s that the case was thrown out for lack of particulars. A chance was given to improve the work, but the assistant DPP failed to carry out the directions of the magistrate. Moreover, the law provides for rectification and it is at the discretion of the trier of facts to allow the same. This could act to the advantage of a party who made some effort to correct his mistakes. It is hard to believe that there was such incompetence on the part of the persons who represented the Crown and perhaps arrogance in not obeying the magistrate.

Following the trend of events one cannot help but conclude that, had the Crown taken the time to prepare its work properly, it would not have had to resort to the ignominious treatment of Miss Frederick. It is wrong for a person to suffer because of the mistakes of others. Six charges were laid initially and the documents were in the courts system for months; however, in two hours, three additional charges were slapped, with particulars this time.

No claim of the legality of the re-arrest by officers of the DPP’s office could exonerate it from the show of power in a situation caused in the first place by their own failure to produce proper charges. Eight or 10 officers of the Special Services Unit and the Criminal Investigations Department carried out the orders to arrest one person, who was not a hostile or dangerous criminal.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com