Criminal proceedings require help from law enforcement agencies
-Director of Public Prosecutions
May 9, 2001
Reacting to criticisms over the perceived inaction of his office against television talk show hosts, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Dennis Hanomansingh yesterday said the institution of criminal proceedings is circumscribed by the need to obtain the aid of the state's law enforcement and investigative agencies.
In a statement, Hanomansingh cited a case where the police supplied him with transcripts of television talk shows and when he provided advice on them he was later told that the matter had been put "on hold". Police officials could not be reached yesterday afternoon for comment on this assertion.
Hanomansingh said that on April 12 and 14, the police tendered transcripts of the television shows and he perused them over the Easter weekend and convened a meeting with five police officers on April 17 where he advised that the tapes be replayed to the presenters and questions be directed to them. He said that at the end of that week, the police submitted a draft of intended questions and he tendered advice on them on April 23 - the next working day.
"The Police agreed to act on my advice and undertook to provide me with the responses to their questions with a view of having charges laid for any offences which may be disclosed therefrom.
"Since that time the five senior police officers who were involved in this exercise have not provided me with the information promised despite my repeated reminders to them. They have advised me that they were instructed to put the matter `on hold'", Hanomansingh asserted.
He also pointed out that the formal instruction of the DPP is not required for the filing of charges and that he had supplied the five officers with a precedent of the likely charge. "Indeed, in the past, similar charges were instituted by the police without prior reference to the DPP", he added.
On the well-publicised case of a talk show host who was believed to have attempted to set a fire, Hanomansingh said the police provided a video recording but were unable to locate witnesses.
"On April 9, 2001 the police exhibited to me a video recording of one such host carrying a bucket while fires were being lit by a mob in Regent Street. I advised the police to secure witness statements which would tend to implicate that person in the commission of a criminal offence.
"One week later the Police reported to me that they were unable to locate any witnesses", Hanomansingh noted.
The DPP acknowledged that under the Constitution he is empowered to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person and before any court in relation to offences against the Laws of Guyana.
"This is, at first glance, a very sweeping power but in reality the desire to institute and undertake criminal proceedings is cricumscribed by the necessity to secure the active assistance and involvement of the law enforcement and investigative agencies of the State.
"In the absence of such assistance and involvement prosecutions will be in vain and will inevitably result in the important office of the Director being demeaned", he contended.
He said he felt compelled to make the statement in view of the criticisms in the media over the perceived inaction of his office relative to the inflammatory comments of talk show hosts. He added that he did not propose to issue any further press releases or engage in debate on the matter.
In the backdrop of inflammatory and incendiary statements made particularly on NBTV Channel 9 by talk show hosts, there had been numerous calls by members of the public for the prosecutions of these persons.