PM accused of launchingshameful”attack on Grant-Bethell
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s reference to the issue of costs in the Cheryl Grant-Bethell case could be”interpreted as an attempt by the executive to tell the court what to do,”according to Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell.
Mitchell claimed yesterday that Ingraham launched a”shameful”and possibly defamatory attack on Grant-Bethell.
“Mr. Ingraham is a lawyer and knows better. His government has counsel, presumably competent counsel, and they will deal with the[costs]matter in due course,”said Mitchell, who described himself as a legal advocate in the case of Grant-Bethell and her fight to become director of public prosecutions.
At a press conference on Saturday, Ingraham said the government expects the judge(Jon Isaacs)to award costs in its favor.
Grant-Bethell recently lost her bid to have the court overturn a decision to overlook her as the DPP.
“The attorney general was sued in his personal capacity. That was thrown out by the court. The attorney general was sued in his capacity as AG. That too was thrown out and we expect costs to be awarded against the party who brought the action-Bethell-and for her to pay it,”said Ingraham, one day after the ruling was handed down.
But Mitchell, who is an attorney, said the prime minister’s comments were ill conceived.
“The issue of those costs remains a matter for the overall arguments on the 18th of March hearing and are for the judge to decide not the prime minister,”Mitchell said.
“The other matter is that of whether the attorney general ought to be sued in his personal capacity. That too was dealt with by separate decisions and the overall cost issues will be dealt with on 18th March. That too is for the judge not for the prime minister,”he added.
Grant-Bethell filed the application last year calling for a review of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission’s(JLSC)decision to pass her over and select Jamaican Vinette Graham-Allen as DPP in the Office of the Attorney General.
In her affidavit, Grant-Bethell claimed the prime minister threatened her during a meeting at his office in Cable Beach on June 4.
“The prime minister became very hostile and advised that he was not prepared to proceed with any of his previous offers and that I should accept whatever job the Judicial and Legal Service Commission offers me,”she said.
In the affidavit she added , the prime minister threatened to”‘bloody my face”,”abolish my post and retire me in the public interest”if she challenged the decision not to promote her to the position of DPP.
Referring to those comments during the press conference on Saturday, Ingraham made statements that Mitchell said may be defamatory toward Grant-Bethell. Ingraham’s comments were carried by several media outlets.
Mitchell said Grant-Bethell’s lawyers are examining those comments.
Careful not to repeat Ingraham’s statements, Mitchell said,”While[Grant-Bethell]has no quarrel with the press, it is incumbent upon all of us to guard ourselves from being co-conspirators in a concerted effort by the Government of The Bahamas to besmirch her reputation. Suffice it to say that Mrs. Grant-Bethell asserts that at all times she spoke truthfully to the court.”
Mitchell noted that the court did not pronounce on the question of the prime minister’s alleged threat to Grant-Bethell which was included in her affidavit. He said the court simply struck those paragraphs out saying that they were not relevant to its decision.
“It did not pronounce on the truth or otherwise of it. The prime minister is therefore out of order on that matter,”Mitchell said.
It emerged during the hearing that the JLSC was about to recommend that Grant-Bethell act as DPP for one year. However, that recommendation was withdrawn after the commission received an intelligence report that contained damaging allegations about Grant-Bethell from the Security Intelligence Branch(SIB)of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
The allegations were not disclosed during the judicial review.
The JLSC did not give Grant-Bethell the opportunity to clear her name in connection with this second SIB report. She was allowed to make commentary on the first SIB report compiled.
Isaacs said it was not inconceivable that she would have been able to addresss any concerns that the report raised if given the chance.
He added that the SIB reports should have remained confidential, but it appeared the SIB provided the reports to the Office of the Attorney General.
He said that the disclosure of the reports may constitute a criminal offense.
“No amount of shouting and stamping by the prime minister can change what the court said about the conduct of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission,”Mitchell said.
“We all happen to think that the prime minister’s attack on the weekend was unseemly and we wish to say so in the public domain. It was shameful. It was disgraceful.”
Mitchell called on Ingraham to”do the decent thing for once, settle this matter with Mrs. Grant-Bethell and apologize for his behavior to the public and to Mrs. Grant-Bethell.”