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 The hounding of a Chief Justice

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PostSubject: The hounding of a Chief Justice   The hounding of a Chief Justice I_icon_minitimeWed Jun 19, 2013 9:42 pm

By FRANCIS JOSEPH Sunday, December 30 2007

THE biggest story for 2007 out of the judiciary has to be the attempt to get rid of Chief Justice Sat Sharma.

Despite all efforts, Sharma walked away, not unscathed, but badly bruised. 

Never before in the history of Trinidad and Tobago has the judiciary been subjected to such publicity and scrutiny. But 2007 was the year when the judiciary, under the stress and strain, passed with flying colours. 

The year started off with Sharma being suspended from office after he was charged on November 30, 2006 with attempting to pervert the course of public justice. It was alleged that he attempted to influence Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in reaching a verdict favourably to former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday who was on trial for failing to declare his London bank account to the Integrity Commission. 

After three brief appearances in court, the case against Sharma collapsed before Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim on March 5. Mc Nicolls refused to be cross-examined after his evidence-in-chief was tendered into evidence through the paper committal route. 

Gilbert Peterson SC, the lead prosecutor, had no choice but to withdraw the case against Sharma. The embattled Chief Justice was acquitted and it took President George Maxwell Richards three weeks to reinstate Sharma as Chief Justice. 

Sharma settled back into office, but that was short-lived as Prime Minister Patrick Manning recommended to the President that a tribunal be appointed to determine whether there was a case for the removal of the Chief Justice from office on the ground of misbehaviour. 

The President appointed the tribunal — Lord Mustill (chairman), Sir Vincent Floissac QC, and Dennis Morrison QC. He suspended Sharma on June 13 pending the deliberations of the Mustill tribunal. 

Evidence was taken between September 17 and 27 following which the Commissioners went away to consider their report. 

For the second straight year, Sharma was deprived of addressing the formal opening of the law term and he would never get the chance again as he retires on January 24. 

On December 20, the President received the 58-page report from Lord Mustill which cleared Sharma of any wrong doing. The President immediately lifted the suspension and Sharma was back in office the following day. 

Sharma went through which no other Chief Justice has experienced or will ever experience. The country would remember that on July 14, 2006, policemen went to his home at St Andrew’s Terrace, La Seiva, Maraval, with a warrant to arrest him. 

It was already 4 pm on a Friday and if Sharma had not gotten Madame Justice Judith Jones to block that arrest, he may very well have had to spend the weekend at the police station. 

But he still experienced the indignity of having to surrender, be fingerprinted and photographed and placed in a prisoner’s dock in court. 

Mc Nicolls’ decision not to testify against Sharma had a ripple effect. The conviction and sentence he imposed on Panday in 2006 for failing to declare his London bank account were quashed and a re-trial ordered by the Court of Appeal. 

Panday was sentenced to two years in jail and fined $60,000 for failing to declare the Natwest bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998, and 1999. He was also ordered to pay $1.6 million, which represented the proceeds in the account. 

But Panday is challenging the decision to order the re-trial. The London-based Privy Council will hear the appeal on February 19, 20 and 21. 

Panday also challenged his eviction from the House of Representatives as a result of his conviction. He took the Clerk of the House to court, but lost in the High Court and Court of Appeal. By the time the Court of Appeal gave judgment in October, Parliament had been dissolved and fresh general elections called.,70568.html
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