Ex-judge seeks ‘truth’ in $20m award against State

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Retired judge Stanley John –

Retired Appeal Court judge Stanley John said the investigation into the State’s failure to defend a malicious prosecution lawsuit filed by nine men acquitted of the murder of Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, started “fully” on February 4, and the first report to it would be sent to the Attorney General by March 31.

Reading a statement during a televised broadcast on TTT on Saturday, John said he was hired by AG Reginald Armour to lead a two-person investigative team consisting of himself and former assistant commissioner of police Pamela Schullera-Hinds.

He was hired to probe the matter after the State was ordered to pay the men $20 million because it failed to defend a malicious prosecution lawsuit brought by the nine.

Armour said Naipaul-Coolman file “disappeared” from of the Office of the Solicitor General one day after it was served in June 2020. It was found after the judgment, one day after the start of the investigation.

This file, John told Sunday Newsday, is in the possession of the investigative team.

In the statement, he listed the terms of reference of the investigation including, “to inquire into the facts and circumstances relating to the matter of Shervon Peters and others against the AG of TT commencing from June 22, 2020 when service of the claim form and statement of case were effected, including the decision of the High Court dated January 30, 2023, and culminating in the handing over of the file to the acting Solicitor General on February 6, 2023.”

The team was also expected to inquire into the roles played by government ministers, members of the civil law department or anyone employed at the Office of the AG or Ministry of Legal Affairs who were managing the matter, and to see if there was any dereliction of duty, violation of laws, conflict of interest or breach of trust on their parts.

It was tasked with examining the procedures of the Office of the AG and Ministry of Legal Affairs’ civil law department when it came to the management and conduct of civil litigation involving the state, and to make recommendations to improve those procedures.

The team was expected to report, in writing, to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission any circumstances or evidence showing any offence by its officers, and to the DPP any fraudulent or criminal acts relating to the matter.

It also has to make any other inquiries relating to the investigation, and make recommendations to remedy or prevent similar actions, including enacting, amending or repealing any laws regarding civil proceedings brought by or against the State.

Members of the team are expected to make recommendations to the AG within 60 days of the start of the investigations was well as provide a full report with recommendations within six months of the start of the investigation – by August 5.

“Citizens of TT, you must be justifiably appalled and outraged at the outcome of the civil action brought by the nine persons who were acquitted of charges of kidnapping and murder of Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.

“Please know that this investigation, which I lead, is interested in one thing and one thing only. That is to say, uncovering and reporting, within our terms of reference, the truth about how the default judgment came to be entered and damages awarded against the State.”

John said they would be fearless, fair, objective, expeditious and careful. He asked the public to withhold judgment until the report was completed, and told the media they would get a chance to ask questions after the team gathers information and deliberate on its findings.

“In the interest of transparency, there will be an opportunity to field question from the media on this matter. However, that time is not now…

“That interrogation would be best supported by relevant information. I therefore commit to fielding these questions at the appropriate time in the process, that would allow me to sufficiently respond without prejudicing or compromising the investigation.”

In addition, he told Newsday during a brief telephone interview that, so far, the few public officials they have spoken to have been co-operating.

“I am hoping we could have a press briefing in a couple of weeks, maybe by the end of the month, when get a little more information and we have something to share.”