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HomeOpinionCommentarySt Lucia appoints special prosecutor: Part 1

St Lucia appoints special prosecutor: Part 1

— In this two-part series, CNG examines the assignment of a special prosecutor in Part 1 and Part 2 – What’s Next!

The AssignmentThe Government of Saint Lucia on November 20, 2023, announced Robert Innocent as special prosecutor and on revision that same day issued a second release stating, “Judicial and Legal Services Commission has appointed Robert Innocent as special prosecutor.

Last August, Prime Minister Philip J Pierre indicated that the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC), in consultation with the attorney-general, would appoint an attorney to be a special prosecutor “so that person is not a political appointee.”

Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) November 20, 2023, declared:

“This appointment underscores the government’s unwavering commitment to addressing cases of misconduct and combating various forms of corruption by persons holding public office. […] Innocent’s appointment marks a significant step forward in the government’s ongoing efforts to uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, and integrity.”

“The government of Saint Lucia firmly believes that this appointment will strengthen the mechanisms in place to investigate and prosecute instances of corruption, sending a clear message that misconduct by public officials will not be tolerated,” OPM.

Concept

A concept for and of a special prosecutor is independent of an office that would normally exercise jurisdiction in a criminal investigation – probes into the discovery of classified documents – in certain circumstances to ensure the fairness of prosecution when serious allegations are made to investigate a specific legal case and/or – investigate specific cases of alleged or suspected corruption or corruption-related offences involving public officers and persons who have been entrusted with public functions that could involve a conflict of interest, misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, including violation of oath and secrecy by public officers.

A special prosecutor is committed to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters –  of arrest – search and seizure of documents, suspected tainted property – movable and immovable – seizure and detention of currency suspected to be proceeds of corruption – direct declaration of property and income, freezing of property.

Special Prosecutor Act

The enactment of the Special Prosecutor Act, said Prime Minister Pierre:

“ This historic piece of progressive legislation empowers an attorney-at-law appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to serve as special prosecutor and also authorises the office holder to receive complaints and investigate credible reports of corrupt conduct by incumbent public officials and also public officials who have demitted office.”

“The Special Prosecutor Act gives legal authority to the special prosecutor to institute both civil and criminal proceedings against any public official who may have engaged in acts of malfeasance and/or is suspected of misappropriating state resources and assets for personal gain.”

“The special prosecutor will further augment the mandates of existing oversight agencies and official prosecutorial offices including the office of the director of public prosecution (DPP), the office of the attorney general, the office of the auditor general, the office of the parliamentary commissioner, the financial intelligence authority and the integrity commission.”

[Possible Translation: Augment refers to a modification, [in this instance ‘increase’] to an existing comparison arrangement, that ‘presumable mirrors’ the DPP.] Even with a 2/3 majority, the government cannot reconfigure the DPP.]

At the August sitting of parliament, Prime Minister Pierre expressed confidence in the Special Prosecutor Act and “expects that it will restore public trust in the government of Saint Lucia – higher levels of accountability and integrity from the custodians of government property and the public officials entrusted with the responsibility of handling the taxpayer’s money and managing the country’s finances.”

Many disagree that appointing a special prosecutor is the right thing to do, (availability of additional solicitors is an option) in the current construct of additional layers in the legal and judicial system unable to manoeuvre with a degree of functionality, efficiency and results.

However, given the extraordinary circumstances presented in Saint Lucia that demand the completion of procedural matters in an urgent manner, there is presumable additional network throughput in process.

According to Prime Minister Pierre:

“With the establishment of the Special Prosecutor Act, Saint Lucians will have access to and can discreetly and safely report corrupt conduct by any public official to an official office dedicated to receiving and investigating complaints.”

“Saint Lucia’s Special Prosecutor Act is modelled after existing legislation from numerous Commonwealth jurisdictions and was extensively ventilated and thoroughly scrutinized by all the relevant stakeholders before it was tabled and debated in the House of Assembly.”

Plenty cases to probe

It is an understatement that there are plenty of legal cases to adjudge with new ones in the pipeline to probe. In the exercise of this, it is whether the investigation of cases forwarded will move expeditiously and thoroughly in the best traditions of justice and law in Saint Lucia.

And taking into consideration the mid-term position of the current government of Saint Lucia; are there aspects under consideration in a politically motivated country and governance? Two Saint Lucia’s – in Europe and the country of Laborie?

Sounds confusing and disproportional! A colleague highlighted: “Then what will the outcome of the facts and the law dictate?” and “Which statute applies?”

Is it Saint Lucia’s Constitution, UK Law, or EU Law?

With contribution from a Legal Investigator.

In Part 2, CNG examines – What’s next?

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