Embattled MP Michael Browne says it’s “discriminatory” to bar him from judge-alone trial committee

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Michael Browne

Michael Browne, the Member of Parliament for All Saints West, cried foul last week when the Attorney General withdrew his nomination for a select-committee in parliament’s Lower House.

 

The parliament had been debating the Criminal Proceedings (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill, 2021, which intends to provide legal authority for High Court criminal trials without a jury in certain circumstances.

 

Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle said new changes to the bill were submitted late, so he could not adequately contribute to the debate.

 

Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, who introduced the bill, ended the debate after conceding that the opposition members should have more time to review the new provisions.

 

“I move by way of motion that a select committee be established to examine the provision of this bill and to report back to this parliament so the matter can be heard on the next sitting,” Benjamin declared.

 

The Attorney General, who nominated the committee members, selected All Saints East and St. Luke MP, Jamale Pringle, Barbuda MP, Trevor Walker, St. Mary’s South MP, Samantha Marshall, All Saints West MP, Michael Browne. The AG said he would serve as chairman.

 

Before the motion was seconded, MP Walker arose to his feet in objection to the selection.

 

The Attorney General, suddenly realizing what was happening, said, “Point taken, don’t embarrass him at all.”

 

However, Walker said, “I have to mention it because the person who is rumbling the most in the honourable house, Mr. Speaker, must understand the position when it comes to justice in this country and the perception of justice. So, I’m saying, Mr. Speaker, my objection is the member for All Saints West should not be a member of the committee.”

 

MP Browne, who had been putting suggestions to the AG during the selection process, was then heard in the background asking, “on what basis?”

 

Walker responded, “Mr. Speaker, we’re going to discuss a very important piece of legislation that’s going to determine whether or not, as AG presented, we’re going to have trials with a judge alone or with a jury. The honourable member, Mr. Speaker, is in a situation where he has something before the courts, and it cannot be perceived as not being a conflict of interest if he sits on the committee.”

 

“So, he’s going to be a part of a committee that’s going to determine how he’s tried,” Walker asked rhetorically and insisted, “that cannot be right.”

 

The Attorney General, who then withdrew the nomination, said, “Mr Speaker, bearing in mind, the representation of the Member for Barbuda and as the Attorney General of this country, responsible for justice, the appearance of justice, the transparency and the accountability for justice, the points made by the member are well taken on board.”

 

“There must not be an appearance at all in these special circumstances. Ordinarily, the Member for All Saints West would be a beautiful person. He is a lawyer… but then your points are well taken”, the AG added.

 

The All Saints West MP, who insisted there was no legal basis for barring him from the committee, said, “It is discriminatory.”

 

The AG later named a new committee replacing Browne with St. John’s City South MP, Daryll Matthew.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. The jury system is a critical element of the justice system in our country. The justice system in Antigua and many other democracies rests on the concept of trial by jury. Trial by jury ensures that the people are accountable to each other rather than to a government or judicial council appointed judge for decisions made in such trials. I think that even in the existing situation, doing away with the JURY system is a fundamental mistake.

  2. This should be the defendant’s choice, as in most democracies. Trial by jury or trial by a lone judge. Not singular, a choice of the defendant.

  3. Michael Browne has no one else but himself to blame.For the situation he now finds himself in.Many of you people in positions of leaderships in Antigua.Do think you are above the Law.That you could do most anything and get away with it.How could someone with a high grade case in the Court.He wants to be on the committee. To determine Jury trials or Judges alone trials.Some people have a lot of nerves.

  4. I question the AG’s judgement even proposing an MP with pending court case for this committee.
    What confidence should we the people have in the countries judicial leader regarding impartiality and making ‘the right call’ unless he’s called out on his poor judgement & then changes tack?

  5. What has gone wrong with the country’s main legal advisor?
    Seems like he has feet in his mouth instead of teeth.
    Who will bell that cat?
    Enough of his bad legal advice.

    Wait MP Michael Browne is a lawyer? I hope it’s not the same kind as his double doctorate.

    A lawyer huh?

  6. He is not a Lawyer.In order to be a Lawyer.You must take and pass a Bar Exam .To practice as a Lawyer.Where and or when did Michael Browne take such an Exam? By the way foks.If someone has a Law Degree.That does not automatically make them a Lawyer.

  7. We need to see proof that he’s a lawyer!!!! Where did he take the bar exam????? When was he admitted to the bar? There are serious questions.

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