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After Section 34 was proclaimed on August 31,
2012, approximately 42 applicants filed motions
to have their criminal cases dismissed. The act
sought to abolish preliminary inquiries for serious
criminal matters in specific categories.
It provided that if cases had not been started
within ten years of the date an offence had been
committed, the accused could apply to have the
matter dismissed. Most of the applicants filed
constitutional motions after the legislation was
repealed on September 12 last year, rendering the
unheard applications null and void.
When the lawsuits were initially brought before
High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armorer, it was
agreed during a preliminary hearing the trio's
lawsuits would be used as a test case which
would decide the fate of the other applicants.
Dean-Armorer, in judgment delivered in April
last year, dismissed all the grounds raised by
applicants paving the way for the appeal.
Ferguson, Edoo and six of the applicants are
before the Piarco II preliminary inquiry which is
before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet in the Port-of-
Spain Magistrates' Court. Some of the others are
also before the court on fraud charges related to
the project while the rest are on unrelated
The trio's legal team includes British QCs
Micheal Beloff and Edward Fitzgerald, Senior
Counsel Fyard Hosein and Sophia Chote and
attorneys Robin Otway and Rishi Dass.
Lord David Pannick, QC, Allan Newman, QC,
former Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-
Honeywell, SC, and attorneys Shastri Persad and
Gerald Ramdeen represented the State.
• December 2011: The Administration of Justice
(Indictable Proceedings) Act is passed by both
Houses of Parliament.
• August 31, 2012: Section 34 is proclaimed.
• September 9, 2012: Under the headline
"Piarco airport cases to be dropped," T&T
Guardian reports that those charged in the Piarco
Airport corruption case may be able to have the
charges against them dropped as a result, since
the charges were laid more than seven years
previously. Among them are UNC financiers Steve
Ferguson and Ish Galbaransingh.
• September 12, 2012: Parliament sits to repeal
• October 2012: 42 applicants under Section 34
file constitutional motions claiming their rights
were infringed by its repeal.
• April 2013: Justice Mira Dean-Armorer
delivers judgment in three of constitutional
motions being used as test cases. Dean-Armorer
dismisses all eight grounds raised by the three
• May 2013: The three applicants file their
appeal of Dean-Armorer's judgment.
• October 2013: Court of Appeal hears
submissions on the appeal for four consecutive
• June 4: Court of Appeal dismisses the appeal,
rejecting all grounds raised by three appellants.
Thursday, June 5, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Appeal Court throws out Section 34 case...
Even as Attorney General Anand Ram-
logan claimed victory for the Government
in an appeal over the repeal of the contro-
versial Section 34 of the Administration of
Justice (Indictable Offences) Act, the group
of fraud accused businessmen and compa-
nies, who filed the lawsuit, still appear to
have a glimmer of hope as they now take
their case to the Privy Council.
While three appellate judges of the Appeal
Court yesterday unanimously dismissed all
the grounds raised by businessmen Steve
Ferguson and Ameer Edoo and insurance
company Maritime General, they simulta-
neously agreed that the group was entitled
to conditional leave to lodge their final appeal
in the British court.
In addition to signalling their intention to
appeal, the group was successful in blocking
the continuation of a preliminary inquiry
into fraud allegations arising out of the $1.6
billion Piarco International Airport project
which was put on hold pending the outcome
of yesterday s appeal.
The application for the stay was unopposed
by the legal team representing the Office of
the Attorney General, who acknowledged
that they had come to an understanding with
the group s attorneys that the request would
not be challenged by the State.
However, attorneys for the Office of the
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) were
not as amenable as the State s attorneys, as
they said DPP Roger Gaspard had indicated
that he was not willing to concede to a stay
of the criminal proceedings.
"The director does not think it appropriate
to consent to a stay of the commital pro-
ceedings. He wants to progress with them,"
attorney Ian Benjamin, who appeared for
After hearing brief submissions on the
issues from all three parties, Appellate Judges
Allan Mendonca, Peter Jamadar and Gregory
Smith eventually granted the group s request.
Moments before granting the group s latest
applications on the issue, Smith and Jamadar
delivered the 57-page judgment which they
had jointly prepared.
Smith who wrote the majority of the ruling,
repeatedly rejected allegations that the repeal
was a plot directly targeting the group as he
agreed with the State s contention that it
was merely done to rectify an instance of
While noting that the court had considered
Hansard records as well as testimony from
Ramlogan in ascertaining Parliament s inten-
tion in repealing the legislation, Smith dis-
missed the group s claims as "speculative,
unbalanced and unfair."
"Even if one could argue that this case of
oversight was not properly established, there
is no escaping the conclusion that the true
purpose of the amendment was to correct
certain serious flaws in the enactment and
proclamation of Section 34 as opposed to
the narrow and limited purpose of depriving
the appellants of a Section 34 defence," Smith
He also described Parliament s action as
"swift and decisive."
Smith also said that the court could not
consider newspaper reports over the parlia-
mentary debates that were relied on by the
group as the those only focused on the effect
of the repeal on the group instead of reflecting
Parliament s true intention which, he said,
was to rectify deficiencies in the legislation
which included concerns over very serious
fraud offences not being including in a list
of exempted cases as well as there being no
allowances for legitimate delays in complex
In dismissing the appeal, Smith rejected
the group s claim that the repeal of the law
breached the principle of separation of powers
as it interfered with the role of the Judiciary
by directing the courts to disregard all Section
34 application filed before the law was over-
"The retrospectively of the amendment
ensured that no one was able to benefit from
this flawed law. It was not in aid or in fur-
therance of an attempt by the legislature to
usurp or infringe upon judicial power," the
He also disagreed with their submission
that the legislation was directly targeted to
prevent them from escaping criminal pros-
"Even though the ammendment may also
have had the appellants in its sights it was
meant to deal with larger vices created by
the enactment and early proclamation of
Section 34," Smith said.
In saying that the repeal did not breach
the group s constitutional rights to due process
of law, Smith noted that it was passed by a
special three-fifths majority in both Houses
of Parliament and that the repeal was rea-
sonably justifiable in the circumstances.
He also denied that the group had a legit-
imate expectation that they would be able
to access the facility provided by Section 34
merely on the ground that it was enacted as
"The concept that any law which creates
rights or expectations that cannot later be
altered or revoked needs only to be stated to
be rejected," Smith said.
While he agreed with Smith s reasoning
in the judgment, Justice Jamadar also chose
to add his voice to the commentary by pro-
viding a concurrent judgment.
Jamadar noted that he felt that the repeal
was a policy decision rather than a "personal
vendetta" against the group.
He said while there were elements of the
repeal which touched on judicial power, the
court would afford the Parliament a "generous
margin of appreciation" in the case as it was
seeking to mend flawed legislation.
"In the end these appeals have demon-
strated above all else the onerous duty and
responsibility on the entire Parliament to
carefully scrutinise legislation before enact-
ment; but also, the reality that even with all
the care in the world, human error, collective
human error, will at times occur," Jamadar
Steve and Edoo now
going to Privy Council
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