September 26, 2007

President's Statement to Impeachment Tribunal

De la Bastide denies 'big case' discussions
Wednesday, September 26th 2007
Source: Trinidad Express

PRESIDENT of the Caribbean Court of Justice Michael de la Bastide yesterday stated that it would be "improper" for a Chief Justice to discuss a pending case with a magistrate.

His statement came in response to the testimony of Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma before an impeachment tribunal.

Sharma stated on Friday that Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls had told him that it was the practice for him to report the outcome of "big cases" with his predecessor, de la Bastide, one which he followed when Sharma assumed office in July 2002.

De la Bastide in a statement to the tribunal said that "was never a practice while I was Chief Justice (between May 1995 and July 2002) for the Chief Magistrate to report to me after every 'big case' which he tried, nor indeed after any case tried by him".

"There was no occasion on which I discussed with Mr McNicolls a case which he was trying before he had given his decision. I would have considered that to have been improper. Further, I do not recall any occasion on which I discussed with him, after the decision was given, a case which he had tried," his statement said.

Chairman of the tribunal Lord Michael Mustill said he did not think the statement was going to influence their decision in any way. He noted earlier that such meeting were not unfamiliar in other jurisdictions.

The tribunal met in closed-door session at the start of yesterday's proceeding to discuss the use of a report compiled by High Court Judge Humphrey Stollmeyer.

Stollmeyer was appointed by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to investigate a complaint made by Sharma against McNicolls. Sharma claimed that McNicolls made a false allegation against him accusing him of trying to influence the outcome of the Basdeo Panday trial after he was implicated in a dodgy land deal.

The Commission had met in emergency session on Thursday to decide whether it will disclose the Stollmeyer report and provided a copy late Friday with condition that its contents remain private. A second report, prepared by Justice Sebastian Ventour, which investigated McNicolls' decision for refusing to testify against Sharma in a criminal case, was deemed by the Commission to be irrelevant to the tribunal's task.

Mustill said that it was not necessary or useful to explore Stollmeyer's report. He also ruled against an application made by McNicolls' attorney to make any reference to a separate complaint against Sharma regarding the Naraynsingh case.

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