SEVENTY-eight-year-old attorney Wilston Campbell has been sentenced to five months’ imprisonment for perverting the courseof justice by trying to bribe a police officer not to bring witnesses to court so that a case against two students caught cheating in CXC examinations in 1995 could be dismissed.
Campbell was sentenced by Justice Devan Rampersad in the Port of Spain High Court on Wednesday .
Today marks exactly 24 years since he was charged with offering PC Kurt Simon a bribe of $1,500 not to bring witnesses to court in a case against two students caught cheating during the 1995 CXC examinations.
Campbell’s five-month sentence was backdated to May 31, when he was convicted by a Port of Spain jury.
His attorney, Dana Salina, in a plea of mitigation, asked for leniency, saying although Campbell did not plead guilty, he was remorseful and felt ashamed of his actions. She also said Campbell, who has been practising for decades, was a mentor to many young attorneys.
She also referred to a testimonial written on Campbell’s behalf by Senior Counsel Israel Khan, who said Campbell represented clients “adequately and fairly” under the legal aid system. Khan said when he was chairman of the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority, Campbell never hesitated to assist many impoverished and needy clients.
“I am quite aware that his past good deeds in his professional life as an advocate for the poor and downtrodden cannot exonerate him from his conviction for the crime of perverting the course of justice,” Khan said in his recommendation.
State prosecutor Shabana Shah said Campbell’s actions in trying to bribe a police officer had tarnished the legal fraternity and condemned Campbell’s conduct as being deceptive and an attempt to undermine the judicial process and its functioning.
Shah also pointed out that Campbell, in his defence, tried to sully the reputation of PC Simon by accusing the policeman of soliciting the bribe from him.
In sentencing Campbell, the judge agreed that the offence warranted a custodial sentence and not a fine. He said just because Campbell was an attorney did not mean he should be treated differently from anyone else convicted of such an offence.
“The conduct of the defence was to cast suspicion on officer Kurt Simon. Mr Campbell will not be treated more or less severely because he is an attorney. Everyone must be dealt with fairly across the board,” the judge said.
He proposed a six-month sentence, but gave Campbell a one-month discount for his contribution to the legal fraternity.
In 2017, Campbell was charged with defrauding a client in a land deal, and in 1996, he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association.