Armour: Government has confidence in judiciary

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour was disqualfied by a US judge from a civil proceeding in Miami related to the Piarco Airport corruption case. – JEFF K MAYERS

AG Reginald Armour said he has been assured by lead counsel Peter Knox, QC, that he had been misquoted in the media as saying that the Parliament did not trust the judiciary of TT when appearing before the Privy Council in February. Armour made the statement in response to comments by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Knox made the statement during an appeal of a landmark ruling of the Court of Appeal in February, that section 5(1) of the Bail Act of 1994, which prohibited bail for people charged with murder, was unconstitutional. He said it was important to look at Parliament’s rationale in enacting the 1994 law to introduce the prohibition to bail for murder, which was that it hadn’t been done before.

He also suggested that, in 1994, the thinking of the Parliament was that it did not trust the courts because at the time people on bail were committing crimes, causing serious concern.

“Parliament is saying ‘I don’t trust you’ (the court) and I am taking some of your jurisdiction away.”

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Persad-Bissessar said she was astounded that the counsel had made the statements.

“That is an astounding statement for a lawyer representing TT to make in the Privy Council, because at the end of the day, the constitution is our supreme law and the supreme court is the guardian of our constitution. We must have that confidence in our courts. If we don’t have that confidence in our courts, then our justice system will collapse. I’m sure if AG Faris (Al-Rawi) was still there, that statement would not have been made.”

She made the statement as she said the Opposition had no faith in Armour in his post as AG.

In his response, Armour said it was an aspersion to somehow suggest that the remarks made there are to be somehow attributed to this government.

“Let me go on record to say that this government has every confidence and trust in the judiciary of TT. Within 24 hours of having learned that the remarks had been made, I dispatched a letter to the instructing attorneys in London to record the fact that this government has every confidence in the judiciary of TT.

“I was assured by the instructing attorneys, Charles Speechlys Russell, that the remarks were misquoted in the media, and in any event the lead counsel for the TT government in that appeal clarified his statements to the Privy Council the following day to make it quite clear that he had not said and should not be misquoted to suggest there is any lack of trust by the Parliament or the government of TT in the judiciary and I would like the house to record that confidence.”