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.
Advertise with the mоѕt vіѕіtеd nеwѕ ѕіtе іn Antigua!
We offer fully customizable and flexible digital marketing packages. Your content is delivered instantly to thousands of users in Antigua and abroad!
Contact us at [email protected]