PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday January 28, 2020 – President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke no longer has a sedition charge hanging over his head – at least for now.
The case against him, which stemmed from statements he made in November 2018 about proposed layoffs at three public utility companies, was discontinued by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle Caddle yesterday on the basis of a High Court ruling that parts of the Sedition Act, under which he was charged, were unconstitutional.
The development came a week after Duke’s attorneys had applied for the dismissal, based on the January 13 ruling by Justice Frank Seepersad which the State has appealed.
“At this time, January 27, there is an order of the High Court that these sections are unconstitutional. At this stage there is nothing on which for him to be tried,” she said when Duke reappeared before her at the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court and the prosecution sought to have the matter adjourned until after the State’s appeal is heard.
A preliminary hearing on a suspension of Justice Seepersad’s ruling is set for February 3.
The Director of Public Prosecutions can file fresh charges against Duke – who also has other pending charges for rape, indecent assault and disorderly conduct – if Seepersad’s decision is overturned in the Court of Appeal.
The judge had ruled that the legislation was “vague, uncertain and can lead to arbitrary application”, and was not compatible with a sovereign democratic state as it limited constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression and freedom of the press.