ANDREW ALLEN’S LETTER ON THE JUDICIARY

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The following letter first appeared in The Tribune by Attorney Andrew Allen. He called for the removal of Justices Carolita Bethel and Indra Charles from the bench both of them are accused of not stepping up to the plate in the Shane Gibson case:

1 December 2019

EDITOR, The Tribune

Anyone doubting that the present government is engaged in the systematic degrading of our country’s vital institutions need only read the media reports of the Shane Gibson case.

Mr Gibson’s speedy acquittal on all counts comes at the end of a shameful process that began with the FNM’s irresponsible promises to jail its opponents if it won power. 

Having won power (in an act of pure lunacy on the part of the Bahamian electorate) it committed its first abuse of policing and prosecutorial powers on its first day in office, when it arrested and handcuffed former PLP MP Dion Smith for the removal of what turned out to be his own equipment from BAIC.

It then engineered the spectacle of the Frank Smith trial, where two ministers acted “egregiously” in the words of the magistrate – with one of them giving a multimillion-dollar contract to the complainant without board approval. This was the same complainant who the prosecution claimed had bribed Mr. Smith.

But its actions in the Gibson case have plumbed new depths of impropriety. A prosecutorial admission that police had altered the principal witness’ statement in a material way should have stopped the trial, but unfortunately didn’t.

At the very least, a government capable of learning the lessons of its own lack of rectitude would publicly halt the remaining cases against opposition activists and politicians.

Instead, Attorney General Carl Bethel chose to make a fool of himself by trying to frighten the critics of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police with threats of prosecution. As an invitation to indulge his threats, I will here repeat that, in my opinion, the position of both men is now untenable and they should both be removed from office. It is also my opinion DPP should be disbarred.

Like Frank Smith before him, if Shane Gibson were an ordinary Bahamian, without access to the best, highest profile attorneys, he would in all likelihood be in jail at this moment. That is a frightening prospect and it must make all fair Bahamians rethink the confidence they repose in the many convictions of young Bahamian men who cry foul about the behaviour of police and prosecutors.

At the very least, all convictions involving ASP Debra Thompson should be reviewed in light of her admission to tampering with and “synchronising” witness statements.

Unfortunately, the courts themselves have shown they are not up to the task of preventing abuses of this kind from taking place. Unlike in the case of Magistrate Joyann Ferguson (an old friend from London Bar studies days, of whom I am immensely proud), the trial was permitted to proceed despite the improper actions of police and prosecutors and only the actions of nine Bahamian jurors prevented Mr. Gibson’s political imprisonment.

In my opinion, both Justices Indira Charles and Carolita Bethel ought to be removed from the bench for permitting the case to go to the jury. In doing so, they endangered the liberty of a Bahamian citizen who was obviously the victim of improper prosecutorial practices (Justice Bethel admitted the prosecutors’ actions were “very wrong”). Perhaps more significantly, they have helped undermine public confidence in a judicial system that has been shown to be a danger to all Bahamians under the stewardship of an unscrupulous governing party.

ANDREW ALLEN

Nassau