Hinds to get legal advice on accepting judge’s invitation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, right, with Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings, left, and Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, at Beetham Gardens, Port of Spain on Saturday during a youth career day. – ROGER JACOB

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said he is consulting his attorneys on how to respond to an invitation by High Court judge Devindra Rampersad “to clarify” his comment about criminals having friends in the Judiciary.

On Friday, Rampersad invited Hinds to appear before him on Wednesday specifying that he was not obligated to do so.

At a Ministry of Youth Development and National Service caravan at Beetham Gardens, Port of Spain, on Saturday, Sunday Newsday asked Hinds if he accepted the invitation and whether he would attend.

In response he said: “I’m aware of an invitation and I am in the process of gaining legal advice since the invitation came from a man of the law, out of which will flow any decision that I might or might not take?”

The invitation is to an in-camera hearing with attorneys in the case of Brent Thomas who sued the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions over a breach of his constitutional rights and criminal charges.

Rampersad permanently stayed the criminal charges and ruled in favour of Thomas that his constitutional rights were infringed, particularly with him being “abducted” from Barbados and returned to TT to face criminal charges.

The State has appealed the decision while the police are investigating its own conduct in the repatriation of Thomas.

The judge scheduled May 10 as the day to consider damages and cost in the matter and invited Hinds to appear before him, away from the public’s view.

On May 1, Hinds in an address to the nation on state-owned TTT said criminals have friends in the Judiciary, police, customs and other places. He has since been called on to apologise for his comment, specifically in relation to the Judiciary.

Asked if he was going to, Hinds, in a brief response to Newsday on Wednesday, said he was a practising attorney in TT and the UK, certified in political and constitutional law and in his years of practice no adjudicator has ever found fault in him addressing them.

Two days after the comment, Rampersad had an emergency hearing with the lawyers involved in the case. At that meeting he raised concerns regarding Hinds’ comment.

Later that day, Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, defended his Cabinet colleague in a media release saying he had investigated and did not find it offensive.

“I am satisfied that it was not the intention of the minister, in any way, to impugn the integrity of the Judiciary of this country, either in any particular matter or generally,” Armour said.

Hinds said he awaits a completed report on the “abduction” of Thomas from the police adding that he has no stipulated time frame by which the report will be completed.

The Prime Minister has distanced his government from the incident which is also being investigated by the Barbados authorities. Dr Rowley is currently on vacation in Barbados.