Sunday, August 5, 2007

State spent TT$1.4M to prosecute CJ

By ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, August 5 2007

THE STATE incurred at least TT$1.4M in legal costs in the failed criminal prosecution of suspended Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma, bringing the base total of this case as well as the Court of Appeal case in which a conviction against former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday was quashed up to TT$ 3.5M.

Sunday Newsday had previously estimated a base-figure of $3.25 M for both matters, after obtaining pro forma invoices from the Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for approving legal fees on behalf of State agents and for approving the appointment of legal counsel.

The figure broke down into a total of TT$1,123,600 in legal costs for fending-off a challenge of the criminal matter against Sharma all the way to the Privy Counsel as well as $1,328,700 in legal fees for Queen’s Counsel Sir Timothy Cassel up to April 25, 2006 in the Basdeo Panday Integrity trial as well as conservative estimation of TT $797,220 for Cassel’s fee in the Panday case when it went to the Court of Appeal.

The Appeal was re-opened days after the collapse of the criminal case against Sharma. Sharma was ordered to pay costs for his challenge to the criminal charges at the Privy Council.

To date the cost of retaining British barrister Michael Beloff QC, who legal sources say is one of the most expensive barristers to retain in London, has never been disclosed. Beloff, a former President of Trinity College, Oxford, appeared for the State at the Privy Council.

None of these costs include the economic cost of diverting state resources, such as the efforts of employees in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and other government agencies, into the pursuit of these court matters.

The amended base total is a result of Sunday Newsday obtaining the legal costs of the Sharma preliminary inquiry which stalled before Senior Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim on March 5 after Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls, Sharma’s chief accuser, refused to be cross-examined.

By letter dated July 31, 2007, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry informed Sunday Newsday that the State, “in fulfilment of its obligations to the people of Trinidad and Tobago” incurred $238,000 for hiring Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson who prosecuted the matter.

The Ministry has not, however, provided the cost of retaining Sir Timothy Cassel for the Basdeo Panday Court of Appeal case. All in all Cassel’s fee from June 6, 2005 to April 25, 2006, when he was working in the Integrity Trial in the Magistrates’ Court, was $1,328,700 (GBP 103,000), according to a pro forma invoice dated September 1, 2006.

Using this ten-month period to produce a rough estimate of legal fees per month at TT$132,870, one could conservatively tabulate that the final quantum of fees would add something like sixth month’s work from October 2006 to March of this year) at TT$ 797,220.

This pushes Cassel’s grand total to at about TT$2,125,920. The suspended Chief Justice, who is now the subject of a Tribunal appointed to investigate the claims of misconduct levelled against him, had been charged with attempting to interfere with the 2006 Basdeo Panday Integrity Trial.

But on March 5, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Carla Brown-Antoine was forced to discontinue the proceedings against him because of Mc Nicolls’ “position.”

Look how to waste fockin tax payers money eh. The fockin man due to retire in January but you so want to hussle em out of office. You rather spend in excess of 5 million dollars to run Sharma from office.

And you know what? When Sharma done and he sue the fockin State more money will fockin goin dong the drain.

Fock for all that money you coulda gee poor people some water dong South. Or feed some hungry fockin chirren.

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