|Letter: “Garlimandering” the judicial system|
|Written by Peter Jennings|
|Friday, 23 March 2012 10:12|
Most people have read or heard about the exchanges between the governor and Michael Misick, initially over the governor’s use of mild profanity on a local radio show.
Not to have the last word, and presumably to prove he carries a big stick, Mr. Misick’s response was followed by a public notice from the governor stating that he had issued an international arrest and extradition warrant for Mr. Misick, authorized by Interpol. Immediately following that notice was a public notice from the attorney general, indicating that he had filed trespass proceedings against the PNP, the party that Mr. Misick led, for the recovery of the land on which its headquarters is built and for an order requiring the destruction of that building.
We now live in a country where the law is at the whim of one man. This situation is beyond intolerable because there is no independent judiciary to check the abuse of that power. Local judges have no security of employment, their salaries are at the discretion of the governor, and the courts’ budget is set by the governor. These are the hallmarks of a legal system where it is comparatively easy for the governor to influence the judiciary.
The recent confirmation of one of the Supreme Court judges was held at the governor’s residence and, on accepting her appointment the judge was quoted as saying, I am “humbled and overwhelmed” and I am “grateful and indeed pleased for the trust that has been placed in me.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) contracts with the judiciary, it appoints the governor, it selects the attorney general, and it has contracted with the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) and the Civil Recovery Team. The governor articulates the FCO’s objectives, he takes every opportunity to comment on the wrongdoing of the current accused, and the efforts of the SIPT and the Civil Recovery Team.
It is clear that the governor is in close communication with the SIPT and that he is confident that government will recover a significant sum from those involved. In a recent release he said, “it is worth repeating: we expect that the costs of these investigations will be recovered many times over and will significantly boost the coffers of the TCI government.” He also recently stated, in his public row with Michael Misick, that Mr. Misick “should return to these islands as soon as possible to face the questions that the SIPT has for him.” If there is any doubt, his office issues public statements on behalf of the SIPT.
That type of commentary from the representative of a body that holds absolute power, and who is the ultimate boss of a dependent judiciary, however, is incompatible with “good governance” and a free and independent judiciary. It sends inappropriate messages to judges, a group that he employs, and who has no job security.
What would you do if you were a judge and saw your boss changing the constitutional right to trial by jury (to secure convictions of specific individuals), changing the Proceeds of Crime Ordinance, proposing changes to the rules on hearsay to erode the rights of targets, changing the law specifically to forgive its debts, and then implementing other laws to take $10 million from others?
The judiciary would be justified in thinking their employer carries and wields a big stick, and for having some concern for their careers if they breach “the trust that has been placed in them.” Google “judicial independence” and you will see that we would get an F by any standard.
The governor is spending approximately $10 million of our money every year to finance the lavish lifestyles and employment of the SIPT and Civil Recovery Team. That is substantially more, by many factors, than he is spending on the judiciary. The Supreme Court has, for instance, lacked a registrar for some time now, and there is no proper library for the judiciary, which is unimaginable. When you look at the facts sensibly, there can be no question that the FCO wants convictions, not a strong and robust judicial system.
By now everyone knows that Mr. Misick has declined Ms. Garlic’s invitation to join her for a chat and, given the amount of money that government has spent on the SIPT’s investigations, and the type of booby trapping that the governor has undertaken on our laws, be charged and then convicted.
I should make it clear that I do not endorse Mr. Misick’s stewardship of this country’s resources, but the FCO has disgracefully manipulated our judicial system to secure convictions in a way that could never happen in England. The last investigations that Ms. Garlic oversaw were long, drawn out, and an expensive flop. The FCO and Ms. Garlic have gone to great lengths to guarantee her “success” this time, but they have done so by Garlimandering our judicial system.
The irony of this is that with the SIPT being the only group of police officers and prosecutors in the world living it up at a lavish five star beach front resort, during the toughest times the country has experienced in the last 30 years, this very expensive investigation is also being undertaken on the backs of long suffering residents.
With all its scheming, its heavy handed arrogance, and after spending $33 million of our money on the SIPT, with much more to go, the FCO has now alienated the overwhelming majority of the population. It has only served to enlarge Mr. Misick’s support base and popularity and it has given Mr. Misick the perfect excuse to decline Ms. Garlic’s invitation to take part in this puppet show that it has masquerading as a judicial system. Although it was always its intention to do so, the FCO must now clearly seek judge alone trials to secure the convictions it has planned.
Whether you love Mr Misick or hate him, what sensible person would encourage him to return?
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