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Time Running Out For Panday



TIME is running out for former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday after yet another attempt by Panday’s lawyers to stop his criminal trial failed yesterday.

However, attorneys representing the Leader of the Opposition are considering making a last ditch effort to go before the Court of Appeal by the end of this week to stop the trial expected to start on Monday before Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates’ Court.

Yesterday, Madame Justice Judith Jones, presiding in the Port-of-Spain High Court, refused to grant leave to Panday to file for judicial review of the decision of the Chief Magistrate to proceed with the trial. The dismissal of the application for leave also left the door open for the trial to begin as the order for staying the criminal proceedings has been vacated. Panday will have to renew his application in accordance with the Judicial Review Act 2000.

Panday is before Mc Nicolls charged with failing to declare his London bank accounts to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998, and 1999.

In her oral ruling yesterday, Jones said Panday had not made out an arguable case to the court, and therefore his application for leave must fail.

On Monday, Fyard Hosein SC, who appeared for Panday, said Mc Nicolls had failed to give them reasons for dismissing their submissions one week ago. "When we asked him for the reasons yesterday, he gave no reasons," Hosein added. Hosein said another ground for submission was the fact that Panday’s appeal on his constitutional motion was listed in the Privy Council on February 16. He said the appeal deals with important issues raised by him before the Chief Magistrate.

Hosein pointed out that the Chief Magistrate had no jurisdiction to hear the charges against Panday. He said the charges were filed with the Integrity Commission long after the deadline had passed and therefore, Panday had nothing to answer.

Douglas Mendes SC, who represented the State, said this matter had a long history. He said the case had been before the Magistrates’ Court since 2002. Mendes said Panday challenged the constitutionality of the charges laid against him. That, he added, occupied the High Court’s time between 2003 and September 2005.

Mendes said after the Court of Appeal dismissed Panday’s constitutional motion, the criminal case came up on two more occasions before the Chief Magistrate. He said on the last working day before the trial date on January 9, Panday filed a petition for leave in the Privy Council.

Mendes, leading Stuart Young and Michael Quamina, said the State had been ready and have brought foreign counsel to prosecute. He also pointed out that foreign witnesses flew into Trinidad to testify. The State attorney said he was very concerned at the state of affairs and believed there should be no further delay in the criminal proceedings.

On the issue of a stay of proceedings, Hosein said his client had an arguable case on four grounds. "If this matter is litigated, it will cause irreparable damage to my client’s reputation. He has been a former Prime Minister, a former Minister of National Security, a Member of Parliament since 1976 and Leader of the Opposition."

Mendes opposed the stay, saying this was an abuse of the process of the court, it was frivolous, and too much time wasting.

In her ruling, Jones said the Chief Magistrate did not prevent Panday from arguing his case in the Privy Council. "What the Chief Magistrate has done is to refuse to adjourn the matter before him," Jones added.

She said Panday had not shown that the Chief Magistrate was irrational in his discretion not to adjourn the trial. She spoke of the history of the matter and the fact that Panday took more than three months to file the petition with the Privy Council after the Court of Appeal had dismissed his constitutional motion.

"I am not satisfied that there is an arguable case before me to grant leave to apply for judicial review," Jones added. There were no orders as to costs.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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