OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on High Court judge Karen Reid Ballantyne to say if she had the malicious prosecution file of the nine men once charged with the murder of Vindra Naipaul-Coolman when she represented the State at the assessment of damages stage.
Reid-Ballantyne was one of the attorneys for the State at the assessment before Master Martha Alexander, who, on Monday, awarded each of the nine men $2.1 million. Alexander pointed out that at the start of the assessment, on November 4, 2022, with the claimants seeking compensation in the sum of $3.5 million each, the State chose neither to defend nor to call any evidence save to appear at the assessment to be heard on quantum.
Persad-Bissessar said it was imperative for Reid-Ballantyne to clear the air.
“Her character, competence, and integrity have been called into question by the Attorney General. Silence is not an option in the face of the $20 million judgment that has caused legitimate public outrage.”
AG Reginal Armour, SC, on Wednesday, said after the claim was served on the State, in 2020, the file “disappeared.” This, he said, was a “sinister” development.
Persad-Bissessar said it would be a serious breach of the code of ethics for any attorney to fully participate in a trial to assess damages without a file.
“This is so because attorneys must act on instructions and based on the documents that were filed in court.”
The Opposition Leader said the AG’s legal team actively opposed and defended the assessment and by his statement, Armour has “cast a most serious aspersion on the character and competence of a sitting judge.”
She said the explanation by Armour was “nothing more than reckless political damage control and an attempt to save his own skin.”
Persad-Bissessar also called on the Chief Justice to say if the court had issued the notices to the Attorney General or any of the offices in that ministry of the “date, time, and place of each hearing in this matter.”
“This is in fact the established practice and procedure and this would also expose the AG’s lie that the file went missing and the State knew nothing about the progress of this matter.
“If, as we suspect, these notifications were sent to the AG by the court, the AG must apologise to the Judiciary for casting aspersions on the administration of justice.”
She said there would have been an obligation by the State to retrieve the file and prepare for a hearing once notifications were sent and to “do otherwise would be dangerous incompetence and misconduct.”
“He must be held responsible. He is the titular head of the Bar and has brought the legal profession into disrepute,” Persad-Bissessar maintained.
“As the minister in charge, the buck stops with him and he must do the decent and honourable thing and tender his resignation forthwith, in accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of parliamentary government.”