Trinidad’s CJ’s D-Day

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, July 31, 2006 – Will the Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Satnarine Sharma, be placed in handcuffs today and whisked off to police heardquarters to be formally charged for perverting the course of justice?

A decision due in the Appeal Court today will answer that question.

The Appeal Court which heard six hours of arguement for and against last Monday’s ex-parte injunction by the High Court will hand down its ruling today.

Last week the embattled Chief Justice who has been locked in a legal battle with the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution as well as what is seen as a political battle with the Government informed President of Trinidad and Tobago George Richards that he would not preside over cases while the legal challenge. In response the President temporarily removed him from office appointing Justice of Appeal Roger Hamel-Smith to act as Chief Justice, until the final determination of all legal proceedings against Sharma.

The drama started after the corruption trial in April 2006 of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday in which the Chief Justice was accused by the Chief Magistrate of attempting to influence the outcome of the case. The Prime Minister then asked the Chief Justice to step down or be prosecuted. The Chief Justice refused and a criminal investigation was initiated.

The findings of the police were that criminal charges should be brought against the Chief Justice however Mr Sharma in a pre-emptive strike obtained a court order preventing the Director of Public Prosecution or the investigating police officer from moving against him. Exploiting a loophole in the order, the Commissioner of Police excluded the investigating officer and sought then to bring independent charges against the Chief Justice. The Commissioner said is actions were based on independent legal advice. The Chief Justice learning of this new development, sought and received an extension to the injunction which prevented the entire police force from arresting him before hi counter-suit against the charges could be heard. The police and Director of Public Prosection have appealed the injunction and the decision is to be handed down today.