Gaskin is first independent DPP
Garvin Gaskin yesterday became the first constitutionally appointed independent director of public prosecutions (DPP) in The Bahamas.
Gaskin has had a “distinguished” career as a public prosecutor in the Office of the Attorney General.
Parliament passed the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 last November, paving the way for the new office and fulfilling a Free National Movement campaign promise to remove certain powers from the attorney general and transfer them to an independent public prosecutor.
During a ceremony at Government House, Gaskin pledged to serve “impartially, transparently” and with a “clinically objective approach with a lack of political fear or manipulation”.
He did so in front of his wife, Odia, his son, Jaz, other family members, Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Attorney General Carl Bethel, members of the judiciary, Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel, senior police force officers, several attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General and others who gathered to witness the historic event.
Gaskin received his instruments of appointment from Dame Marguerite.
“As the Commonwealth of The Bahamas evolves as a small gem in this very big world, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions must be appropriately principled in the execution of its duties,” Gaskin said.
“In this vain, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is committed to having an unwavering and dedicated focus on justice.”
Gaskin said that justice must be “consistently and enthusiastically” served.
“This service must be done with impartiality and transparency with a clinically objective approach with a lack of political fear or manipulation and a healthy conscience,” Gaskin said.
“And so, as I am today formally moved into this office, I am resolute in our pursuit of the highest level of dignity and honesty for the benefit of all that are within the jurisdiction of this great nation.”
Gaskin stressed that his office will have integrity.
“I realize that everything you do sends a message,” he said.
“Everything you do not do, sends a message. Therefore, we are all messengers. The message that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions sends must be one of integrity.
“Integrity must be the software of our transformation. So, as the first holder of this office, I earnestly pray and ask God again to culture within me a Christ inspired intimacy with wisdom so that I can discern the fine print of his will.”
Minnis praised Gaskin as an experienced prosecutor.
“Today, we witness the very first successfully implemented amendment to our nation’s constitution, with the confirmation of Garvin Gaskin, in the new constitutional office of this nation’s first independent director of public prosecutions,” Minnis said.
“Mr. Gaskin was, prior to this day, a public legal officer serving in the public service post of director of public prosecutions; however, as a consequence of the deeming provisions in the Constitutional Amendment Act, passed by Parliament, Mr. Gaskin is now about to be confirmed in a new high constitutional office, of the independent director of public prosecutions, created under Article 78 (b) of the constitution, for the period of five years.”
The prime minister noted that the establishment of an independent public prosecutor is a “praiseworthy achievement for Bahamian democracy, as it has the potential to mark a clear break with the past”.
“Historically, all too often, there have been instances where public criticism and even parliamentary dissension arose in consequence of what some might have viewed, as the commencement of certain prosecutions by way of nolle prosequi issued by former attorneys general, in circumstances which were considered to be ethically or politically questionable,” Minnis said.
“Hopefully, those days where persons, even ill-disposed persons, could credibly suggest some kind of political influence over the commencement or conduct of public prosecutions will now be over.
“Hopefully, any suggestion of political influence over prosecutions by the executive arm of government will now be a thing of the past.
“Certainly, the constitution of The Bahamas now requires that any policy directives given by the attorney general to the director of public prosecutions must be in writing and published in the Gazette for all to see.”
While in opposition, the FNM took issue with some of the decisions made by the former attorney general.
Asked about some of those concerns, Gaskin said, “Historically, you never fully explain why you enter a nolle in a case.
“There is good reason because you don’t want to set that as a precedent and every time you make a decision you have to say this is why.
“I do appreciate that there may be times when an explanation is sought and can be given. But as I said, you have to start at a foundational plank and that is every decision you make to discontinue must be a principled one and not one influenced by inappropriate or external forces.”
The director of public prosecutions has the power to, in any case, undertake criminal proceedings against any person; to take over and continue any criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other person or authority and to discontinue, at any stage before judgment is delivered, any criminal proceedings undertaken by himself or any other person.