LOOK WHO’S FI­NALLY SMIL­ING . . . FROM SCAPE­GOAT TO OECS JUDGE!

For­mer DPP Victoria Charles-Clarke: She left be­hind a deep dark hole still un­filled af­ter six months.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - SEE CENTER -

Un­til last No­vem­ber rel­a­tively few Saint Lu­cians (by which I mean the minis­cule sec­tion of our so­ci­ety that still gives a damn) knew she ex­isted, let alone her name and func­tion. Which is not to say she in­hab­ited some se­cret bat cave by day and emerged only on par­tic­u­larly dark nights with chimeri­cal boloms and gens gaje. It turns out that Victoria Charles-Clarke was never a her­mit. It’s just that life had taught her al­ways to choose her friends care­fully. In this town where color pref­er­ences de­ter­mine loy­alty, you can never be too cau­tious about whom you en­trust with your se­cret thoughts. Even when you be­lieve you’re shar­ing a pri­vate bur­den with a proven friend, chances are he or she will turn out to be a chameleon— ca­pa­ble of as­sum­ing at the speed of light ev­ery color on a dol­lar bill.

What a sur­prise, then, when she was hired by the red Kenny An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion de­spite they sus­pected she was yel­low to the bone—a per­cep­tion based largely on pre­sumed ties to Sir John Comp­ton. But then the red bri­gade would be the first to re­mind the crit­i­cal ob­server that even af­ter close to five years they had re­fused to con­firm her in her po­si­tion, a mis­cal­cu­lated tac­tic they imag­ined would keep her mal­leable.

Speak­ing on her own be­half, the lady in­sists she had never imag­ined her­self other than a lawyer hired to serve her coun­try as Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions. Her first loy­alty had al­ways been to the Con­sti­tu­tion of Saint Lu­cia. If in truth she had a color pref­er­ence, she seemed deter­mined to keep it Victoria’s se­cret. Nev­er­the­less, that the gov­ern­ment headed by Sir John Comp­ton had con­firmed her po­si­tion soon af­ter win­ning the 2006 gen­eral elec­tions was, for her ini­tial em­ploy­ers, fur­ther proof they were right all along: that she had never been one of them; that al­ways she had been ir­re­vo­ca­bly UWP. The 2006 ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Sir John’s legacy hap­pily shared that con­vic­tion—un­til she in­sisted on play­ing by the book. By which I re­fer to our Con­sti­tu­tion. But that’s for an­other show. Suf­fice it to say that much of what went on in the darker cor­ners of the Red Zone was as se­cret to the act­ing DPP as to the con­firmed DPP.

Chances are a cer­tain Do­mini­can lawyer knows more about Rochamel and Gryn­berg than ever she did, to say noth­ing of IMPACS— the straw that fi­nally broke the camel’s back. In No­vem­ber 2015, two days be­fore the ex­plo­sion that abruptly made the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions the na­tion’s most dis­cussed pub­lic of­fi­cial, the gov­ern­ing Saint Lu­cia Labour Party con­vened a meet­ing on the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket. Among the first to ad­dress the primed au­di­ence on the re­mem­bered evening was Stan­ley Felix, an un­elected MP and lawyer with re­spon­si­bil­ity for hous­ing. How­ever, on the re­vis­ited evening what oc­cu­pied his at­ten­tion was the leader of the op­po­si­tion United Work­ers Party and a fin­ger-point­ing re­port he claimed had not re­ceived due at­ten­tion by the DPP, de­spite that she’d had it for sev­eral months. By all he said, the MP seemed to be blam­ing the per­ceived tar­di­ness on po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions given prece­dence over the law of the land. The ful­mi­nat­ing MP (soon to be dis­posed of by the elec­torate) cau­tioned the DPP—who in a few weeks would pro­ceed on pre­re­tire­ment leave—ei­ther to shape up or get the hell out of the gov­ern­ment’s hair.

Atyp­i­cally, the DPP hit back on 26 No­vem­ber 2015 at a press con­fer­ence. While she touched on the re­port cited from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket (she blamed the al­leged tar­di­ness on well-known short­com­ings at her of­fice) it was on an­other much dis­cussed re­port that she con­cen­trated: “The gov­ern­ment ap­pointed a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors to look into twelve po­lice shoot­ings which oc­curred be­tween 2010 and 2012. There had been in­quests into these po­lice shoot­ings and of these in­quests one in­volv­ing five per­sons was in­com­plete; the other seven were com­pleted, with find­ings of law­ful killings. One came with a find­ing of un­law­ful killing.

“The gov­ern­ment passed leg­is­la­tion, namely the Po­lice Com­plaints Act Num­ber 7 of 2013, to al­low the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the po­lice to ap­point spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tors from out­side of Saint Lu­cia. That was done and in March 2015 the prime min­is­ter made an ad­dress. A re­port was sent to my of­fice and ac­cord­ing to the prime min­is­ter it was for me to eval­u­ate and as­sess the pro­ba­tive ev­i­dence placed be­fore me. At the time I re­ceived the re­port, in March, I was en­gaged in a mur­der trial in­volv­ing three de­fen­dants that lasted about three months.

“There­after I com­menced the Ver­linda Joseph trial, which went on un­til the high court build­ing was shut down for ren­o­va­tions and re­pair. Af­ter that I was en­gaged in pre­par­ing nu­mer­ous cases, hun­dreds of cases I might say, for the courts were due to re-com­mence in Septem­ber. It was while I was on va­ca­tion that I was able to give my full at­ten­tion to the IMPACS Re­port, as it is called.

“What I re­ceived, I must say, did not come in the tra­di­tional form. In fact the man­ner in which the re­port was sent to me, I be­lieve, was un­con­ven­tional. I can also say the con­tents of that re­port did not

con­form with our laws in Saint Lu­cia. In other words, it did not con­sti­tute ev­i­dence as re­quired un­der the laws of Saint Lu­cia. In other words, it did not con­sti­tute ev­i­dence as re­quired un­der the Ev­i­dence Act. What I read in the doc­u­ment I re­ceived com­prised of opin­ions, com­mentary, sum­mary rec­om­men­da­tions.

“Of course there were some most se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of in­fringe­ments of some of the gravest and most se­ri­ous of­fences un­der our Crim­i­nal Code. Hav­ing re­ceived that doc­u­ment and pe­rused it I had to spend time re­search­ing the law and de­cid­ing how to pro­ceed. I have come to the con­clu­sion that what was pre­sented to me was not in ac­cor­dance with the re­quire­ments of our laws.

“I have writ­ten to the at­tor­ney gen­eral and also to the Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs re­quest­ing that there be com­pli­ance with Sec­tion 3-7 of the Po­lice Com­plaints Act, the amend­ment of which says: Where in any in­ves­ti­ga­tion au­tho­rized by the Min­is­ter, it ap­pears to the in­ves­ti­ga­tor or lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor that there is prima fa­cie ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal con­duct, he or she shall trans­mit to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic

Pros­e­cu­tions, all ev­i­dence, state­ments and other rel­e­vant ma­te­ri­als aris­ing from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“What I re­ceived was a re­port. I did not re­ceive state­ments. I did not re­ceive other doc­u­ments, and a lot of the other in­for­ma­tion re­ferred to in the re­port was not sub­mit­ted to me . . . and has not been sub­mit­ted to me. There were other le­gal is­sues aris­ing from the re­port which I can­not dis­close, or go into, but about which I have re­quested in­for­ma­tion. I have also raised this mat­ter with the at­tor­ney gen­eral.”

She re­minded me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives at her meet­ing of the oper­a­tions of her of­fice. “When a file is sent to me as DPP,” she said, “I have to re­view the ev­i­dence to de­ter­mine whether the ev­i­dence com­plies with the re­quire­ments of our Ev­i­dence Act and the crim­i­nal laws of Saint Lu­cia. I have to de­ter­mine whether the ev­i­dence is suf­fi­cient and what is ad­mis­si­ble. The only way I can do that is by hav­ing the ac­tual or real ev­i­dence, the ev­i­den­tial ma­te­rial upon which the al­le­ga­tions are be­ing made. I re­view that; it tells me the source of the ev­i­dence, how the ev­i­dence was ob­tained. It al­lows me to ap­ply the var­i­ous elements of the law, the laws of ev­i­dence, to de­ter­mine whether that ev­i­dence will be ad­mis­si­ble in court. That is how I do my work.”

Fi­nally: “I do not make pub­lic state­ments on mat­ters that the po­lice have re­ferred to me. To do so would be to com­pro­mise the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and, sec­ondly, also to alert po­ten­tial of­fend­ers that cer­tain ac­tion is likely to be taken against them that will en­cour­age them to evade the law. There are nu­mer­ous rea­sons why pub­lic state­ments could not be made about this mat­ter.”

Sev­eral days fol­low­ing the DPP’s meet­ing with the lo­cal press the jus­tice min­is­ter Vic­tor LaCorbiniere re­vealed to Shel­ton Daniel, in an in­ter­view fea­tured on state-funded Ra­dio St. Lu­cia, that he had in­deed re­ceived on No­vem­ber 25, 2015 a let­ter from the DPP dated 23 No­vem­ber, 2015, “ap­prox­i­mately eight months af­ter the re­port be­ing sent to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions.”

It was the jus­tice min­is­ter’s “un­der­stand­ing that the re­port was sent on 7 March 2015.” He seemed to say there was some­thing un­usual, if not out­right wrong, about the DPP hav­ing writ­ten to him “eight months af­ter she re­ceived the re­port stat­ing cer­tain things . . . And in the mid­dle of this she is about to pro­ceed on re­tire­ment leave.” That was “clearly, clearly, clearly some­thing of extreme con­cern,” LaCorbiniere added.

As for the DPP’s ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tions: “She has in­di­cated the re­port con­tains cer­tain ma­te­rial but that the im­por­tant ba­sis for that ma­te­rial, the wit­ness state­ments and other ev­i­den­tiary mat­ters, are not con­tained in that re­port. Well, Shel­ton, it could not be con­tained in that re­port. It would be highly im­proper and prej­u­di­cial to have any such mat­ters con­tained in a re­port of this kind . . . So, for the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions to even wish to sug­gest in any kind of way that there was some lapse or some prob­lem with not an­nex­ing these to the re­port is, I be­lieve, re­ally and truly out of place; com­pletely out of place.”

So much for that Sec­tion of the Po­lice Com­plaints Act cited by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions at her press con­fer­ence!

Ad­di­tion­ally: “I am deeply con­cerned by the cor­re­spon­dence she has writ­ten me and some of the state­ments she has made in the pub­lic do­main. All of this ap­pears to me to have prej­u­diced her mind in the con­duct of this mat­ter . . . With­out hav­ing the ben­e­fit of all the facts, all the state­ments, all the doc­u­ments in this mat­ter, for her to be go­ing down the road prej­u­dic­ing her mind and mak­ing prej­u­di­cial con­clu­sions, that is a very, very se­ri­ous mat­ter as far as I am con­cerned . . . I am go­ing to make it, as I’ve said, part of the pub­lic record be­cause I be­lieve the na­ture of this mat­ter war­rants that we have to be mind­ful of the pub­lic right to know and how much we can dis­close.”

Since her re­tire­ment there has been no pub­lic word from the for­mer DPP. Mean­while her of­fice re­mains va­cant, much to the con­ster­na­tion of the US State Depart­ment and hu­man rights rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the EU. The IMPACS is­sue re­mains un­re­solved and ev­i­dently “not go­ing away any­time soon,” to quote of­fi­cials. But while it may have seemed for a time Victoria Charles-Clarke’s ca­reer was con­se­quently in jeop­ardy, this week brought good news, at any rate for the for­mer DPP. She has been ap­pointed a high court judge as­signed to the Com­mon­wealth of Do­minica: An­thony Astaphan’s turf.

Alas, judg­ing by the at­ten­tion given her new po­si­tion by the lo­cal me­dia, Victoria Charles-Clarke might just as well have taken per­ma­nent res­i­dence in an un­charted cave with other IMPACS scape­goats!

Speak­ing of which, the trend­ing word that for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen­son King has been re­lieved of his US visa has turned out to be a ru­mor “made in Red City” and one hun­dred per­cent not true. Wish­ful think­ing, ac­cord­ing to an es­pe­cially at­trac­tive yel­low­bird con­ceiv­ably in a po­si­tion to know!

For­mer be­lea­guered Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Victoria Charles-Clarke (left). The gov­ern­ment headed by Kenny An­thony (right) pub­licly blamed her for the mess known as IMPACS.

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