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Thursday 23 May 2019
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Ramdeen: Crooks might challenge convictions

Attorney Gerald Ramdeen
Attorney Gerald Ramdeen

THE judicial system could face a barrage of legal challenges from many quarters, including convicted criminals, after the body that appoints judges was deemed to have been improperly constituted, warned Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen.

His warning came on Thursday, after the Privy Council’s recent ruling that the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) was composed of too many judges and fell short of its five-member quorum, both as specified in the TT Constitution section 110.

This was a final ruling in the case of a High Court injunction won by activist Devant Maharaj last June against the appointment as judges of Kathy Ann Waterman-Latchoo and Jacqueline Wilson, which was overturned the next day by the Appeal Court, which in turn was overturned by the British law lords.

While Attorney General (AG) Faris Al-Rawi had hit the Opposition for only lately unearthing the JLSC’s faults, and not under their own tenure in government, Ramdeen countered that the AG is now the guardian of the public interest. While the AG cannot now directly set up a proper JLSC, he should now express his concern, said Ramdeen.

“The AG should exercise some maturity.”

Otherwise, he said that while the Privy Council deliberately kept its ruling narrow, its judgement in fact it had opened the door for many challenges to be filed in TT law-courts to the naming of judges, the failure to name judges, and the rulings of judges whose tenure is under question.

Ramdeen opined that Chief Justice Ivor Archie should have a quiet word with the named judges, and they would then resign.

He said that if the JLSC has been wrongly constituted, there may be individuals who it had rejected to become judges but whom might otherwise have been appointed by a properly constituted commission. “The time might come when one or two individuals bring an action in court,” Ramdeen said.

He again turned his guns on Al-Rawi, saying while the AG has said he wants to recruit judges from the Commonwealth, it is more important to give that chance to TT nationals via a properly established JLSC.

Ramdeen lamented a “deafening silence” from the head of state (President Paula-Mae Weekes) whose predecessors would have presided over the JLSC’s incorrect composition.

“It is a matter of great public concern. The Office of the President should say something.”

He said every day that goes by with the two judicial officers sitting in court is an undermining of the rule of law. The authorities must rectify this situation, Ramdeen urged.

Asked if criminals might challenge convictions issued by judges appointed by a wrongly-constituted JLSC, he said, “I’d say the Privy Council has left that option open.”

Newsday was unable to contact the Office of the President or the Attorney General.

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