Has newly appointed acting DPP taken on a Mission Impossible?
The DPP’s chair that had been vacant for almost a year will finally be filled, if only temporarily. On Wednesday, National Security Minister Senator Hermangild Francis officially announced the appointment of local attorney Daasrean Greene as the replacement for retired Victoria Charles-Clarke. He has been contracted to act in her place for twelve months. His official powers and instruments will be presented when he takes the oath of office, administered by the governor general on October 17.
The position of the Director of Public Prosecutions is a constitutional one, with a contractual lifespan leading up to the official retirement at age of 55. But according to Senator Francis, “he [Greene] should be given the opportunity to prove himself and also the government must be able to make an assessment of what has happened at least over one year.
“After a year,” said Francis, “I am not sure if Mr. Greene would be so inclined as to continue in the position or vice versa, or if the government will be satisfied to such an extent that we would want to continue with him.”
The term “acting” before his title spares Greene the burden of having to remain in the position until the official retirement age of 55, according to Senator Francis who referenced section 73 of the Constitution that speaks to the strict restrictions of removing persons from such positions.
During the press conference on Wednesday the minister cited other similar constitutional positions like that of the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police and Auditor General which may prove difficult to dismiss.
“To remove a confirmed Director of Public Prosecutions before the age of retirement would require proof he or she is incompetent, corrupt or in ill health.
“In any event, the decision is that of the Legal Services Commission . . . and they will put in a committee to review his performance then they decide whether he or she should remain in office,” Francis said.
In an interesting twist, the senator’s brother and Straight Up host Claudius Francis on Wednesday challenged the government’s bid to install a local practising lawyer in a position that gives him complete access to the files of the DPP, if only for one year. Said the radio personality, the acting DPP will be free to return to private practice armed with sensitive information from the files of the DPP’s office, which Francis saw as problematic.
Minister Francis countered: “Mr. Greene is a professional and a Saint Lucian and we need to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is going to act as a professional. I do not want to think of it, that Mr. Greene would want to come in there and for some reason look at files and then when he gets back out there he has an unfair advantage. I don’t think we should entertain any such ideas. We should give our own people the respect and confidence professionals deserve.”
The new man at the DPP’s office will have to deal with a backlog of some four thousand cases, predating the retirement of Victoria Charles-Clarke. The security minister specifically listed IMPACS, Lambirds and over 500 indictments requiring urgent attention. “He has to tackle all of the cases, but we have to look at the IMPACS report. It’s not only affecting the police officers, but also the whole country.”
Home, Justice and National Security Minister Senator Hermangild Francis and his government don’t seem keen on getting stuck with a strained relationship with a DPP for the next five years, using one year as their preliminary round to judge a working kinship with the Director.