AG seeks clarity on law for indictable cases in extraditions

Attorney General Reginald Armour. - File photo by Jeff K Mayers
Attorney General Reginald Armour. - File photo by Jeff K Mayers

THE Attorney General has filed an interpretation claim in the High Court to determine a magistrate’s jurisdiction in extradition cases under the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act (AJIPA).

The interpretation claim was filed in June. It seeks to have the court determine if the AJIPA removed or impacted a magistrate’s jurisdiction and powers in extradition cases. The act, proclaimed in December 2023, abolished preliminary inquiries for indictable offences and other related matters.

The claim has been assigned to Justice Ricky Rahim who is expected to give his ruling on July 23.

The claim says there is no reference in AJIPA to extradition matters filed under the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act.

It referred to the extradition of a Trinidadian man wanted in the United States on an attempted murder charge. In that case, Vincent Roberts was arrested on April 17 on a warrant for an alleged attempt to murder his ex-girlfriend in February 2021 in Brooklyn, New York, after she refused to rekindle the relationship. According to the arrest warrant, Roberts is wanted in NY to face charges of attempted murder in the second degree; attempted assault in the first degree; and criminal possession of a weapon.

The authority giving the acting chief magistrate the all-clear to proceed (ATP) with the extradition hearing was signed by Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, on January 15, for the US Government.

Roberts was arrested at Desperlie Crescent, Laventille, by Sgt Carlos Norton.

According to US court documents, Roberts was arrested on February 28, 2021, and arraigned on March 1. Bail was set for US$40,000 cash or US$60,000 bond and he was released from custody after posting the cash bail or bond.

On March 17, 2021, Roberts was indicted by a grand jury in Brooklyn and was ordered to appear in the Kings Supreme Criminal Court on January 4, 2023.

The records said on January 6, 2023, US judge Abena Darkeh issued a bench warrant when he failed to appear and the US Marshal Service allegedly received information that Roberts left the US on December 11, 2022, on a flight to Trinidad.

The interpretation claim before Rahim said the extradition act gives a magistrate the power to commit or discharge a fugitive. The claim said the AJIPAA did not remove a magistrate’s power under the extradition act.

“The determination of this issue by the court is manifestly urgent, important and in the public interest,” the claim said.

It says the issues of law needed to be urgently resolved so that Roberts’ extradition case can proceed. It also said the Attorney General would continue to receive extradition requests so the “procedure which ought properly to be adopted under the law is critically important to determine.”

The claim further said there was a need to preserve the international reputation and obligations of Trinidad and Tobago under the various treaties and a determination by the court may guide the development of future legislation required to clarify the process for the institution, hearing and determination of extradition cases.

“The determination of the issues raised will assist in maintaining public confidence in the rule of law and in ensuring that the actions of the State in treating persons who may be subjected to requests for extradition by foreign states and not subject to challenge subsequently as being unlawful.”

The issue arose in May before acting chief magistrate Christine Charles who is presiding over Roberts’ extradition.

Attorneys had questioned the acting chief magistrate’s jurisdiction and powers under the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act and whether any had been removed by the AJIPA. The parties were asked to file submissions on the issue and the matter was adjourned to June 21. However, the interpretation claim said the matter was for the Supreme Court to determine as it concerned the jurisdiction of an inferior court.

The AG is represented by Ravi Rajcoomar, SC, Raphael Ajodhia, Netran Kowlessar and Raydon Dalrymple Watts. Attorney Kiev Chesney appears for Roberts while attorney Christophe Rodriguez appears for the acting chief magistrate.


"AG seeks clarity on law for indictable cases in extraditions"

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