Dame Joan ‘seriously concerned’ about Minnis’ comments
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis should not have commented on the case of the Cabbage Beach protesters charged in relation to the destruction of a fence, former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer said yesterday.
As the matter is still before the courts, Dame Joan said that this is something that simply should not happen.
“As a matter of wisdom I don’t think he should have responded,” she said, when called for comment.
Dame Joan said she is seriously concerned when politicians or clergyman “get on their high horses and try to interfere with the judiciary”.
“He should not comment on it at all,” she said.
“In fact, to say that if you go to court and you are convicted and I will wipe the record clean is to tell the court ‘Don’t waste your time; don’t hear the case’.
“You can’t do that either.”
Minnis has said that he would live up to his commitment to wipe clean the records of the 10 people charged in relation to destroying a fence on Cabbage Beach in 2016 if they are convicted, Press Secretary Anthony “Ace” Newbold said.
The prime minister has no constitutional or legal authority to do such a thing.
Asked about the appearance of politicians interfering in matters before the court, Dame Joan said, “I am concerned whenever a politician gets on his or her high horse, or a bishop or a priest or whoever get on his high horse, and try to interfere with the judiciary.
“I’m seriously concerned.”
The former protesters, who said they have been unable to contact the prime minister, have called on Minnis to act.
But Dame Joan said, “Isn’t that really ignorance, because they want him to wipe the record clean before they have a record?
“They don’t have a record yet, do they?
“They have not been convicted.”
Asked how serious this matter is, she said, “To me, it’s very serious in the sense that it shows how ignorant my people are about the processes of the court and of the legal system.
“It is not serious in terms of the actual offense. It is not robbery. It is not rape, or housebreaking or burglary.”
Noting that Minnis is not a lawyer by profession, Dame Joan said that the attorney general should have counseled him on this matter.
“That is the attorney general’s main concern, to make sure that the government is kept within the law,” she said.
On Monday, when asked about this matter, Attorney General Carl Bethel said, “I have not heard from their (former protesters) lawyers, and I have nothing to refer to the prosecutors for them to review.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a prosecutorial decision. They have to decide whether they would advise me to take any action.
“If they don’t advise me, then I see no need to intervene with the discretion of the prosecutors who have sight of the file, knowledge of the facts, none of which I have. Attorney generals act on advice and only on advice.”
Bethel added: “The government has shown its commitment to the depoliticization of prosecutorial matters by having made one of the first things it has done in Parliament the passing of the constitutional amendment, which is being gazetted as we speak, completely removing politics from prosecutorial discretion.”
Dame Joan said it seems that Bethel has forgotten that, in opposition, Minnis made certain statements.
In 2016, Minnis called on the then attorney general to nolle the case, and pledged to expunge their records if they are convicted.
“These men will have no criminal records that will interfere with their advancement and progression in society,” he pledged. “It will be