Prisoners granted motion to challenge Benschop trial date
---Six more claim right to early hearing
By George Barclay
October 2, 2003
THE hearing of the constitutional motion by prisoners Kenneth Richardson and Seetal Sookdeo, who are alleging that the DPP had cheated them of an early trial in preference to newcomers Mark Benschop and others, continued yesterday before Justice Jainarayan Singh.
Shortly before the trial began yesterday afternoon, six other prisoners, who are awaiting trial at the Georgetown Prison, filed similar applications, claiming that by reason of the hearing list of cases put out by the DPP, their constitutional right to a fair and early hearing had been contravened.
The lawyers who issued those applications are Mr. Glen Hanoman and Ms. Priya Manickchand.
When the matter first came up in Court last Monday via exparte application by lawyers Ms Manickchand and Mr. Hanoman, Justice Jainarayan Singh granted a Nisi Order of Certiorari directed to the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why a Writ of Certiorari should not be issued to quash her decision to present the indictments for trial of the accused persons, namely, Martin Rodrigues, Leslie Tappin and Mark Benschop and et al.
It is alleged that those persons have all been committed to stand trial after the applicants and whose cases are listed for trial at the October criminal session of the High Court in Demerara.
The respondents named by the applicants, are the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General Mr. Doodnauth Singh, S.C.
At the inter partes hearing yesterday, Attorney General Singh appeared in person and on behalf of the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
Earlier, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan appeared on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
A surprise entry yesterday included lawyers Ms Emily Dodson and Mr. Shaun Allicock, who told Judge Jainarayan Singh that they were there to represent treason accused Mark Benschop, who wanted to intervene in the proceedings, on the ground that a Nisi Order had been granted to the applicants.
Justice Jainarayan Singh fixed the hearing of that application for intervention for 1.30 o’clock this afternoon.
This afternoon, the judge will also fix a date for hearing.
Earlier in the proceedings in open Court, the Attorney General had told the judge that the Constitutional Motion had just been filed and pointed out that even though the DPP and the Registrar had been named as Respondents, in any matter in which constitutional issues arise, the Attorney General is mandated to represent the Constitution.
The A.G. then said that he had indicated to both the DPP and the Registrar of the Supreme Court that he would authorise independent legal representation.
As Attorney General, he said, he would represent the third named respondent and would be asking for 14 days within which to file an affidavit in response.
At this stage, Mr. Ramjattan for the DPP challenged the Nisi Order of certiorari that had been granted by the judge on the basis of a constitutional motion, and declared that was not permissible.
Ramjattan said that Nisi Orders for prerogative remedies are not obtainable when a motion is for constitutional remedies and added, “If you want a nisi certiorari order, you have to bring your proceedings through a prerogative writ.”
Some of the prisoners who filed applications yesterday, said that they were committed to stand trial since 2000, and up to now their depositions by the magistrates have not yet been typed.
Mr. Ramjattan later explained that the DPP could not be blamed for not acting on a deposition, which has not reached her.
Among the declarations sought by the applicants include:-
A declaration that it would be just and fair that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Registrar of the Supreme Court present the indictments of accused persons particularly those in custody, in the chronological order of their committal, saving all just and reasonable exceptions.
A declaration that the continued detention of the Applicant is cruel and inhuman treatment and in breach of Article 141 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
An Order or Rule Nisi of Prohibition directed to the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why a Writ of Prohibition should not issue to prohibit the Director of Public Prosecutions from presenting the indictments of the accused persons namely Martin Rodrigues, Leslie Tappin, and Mark Benschop et al who have all been committed to stand trial after the applicants and whose cases are listed for trial at the session of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Criminal Jurisdiction) for the County of Demerara commencing Tuesday, October 7, 2003 before the Applicants’ trial.