BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – IN the wake of the recent issue involving Magistrate Donna Harris and a Crown Counsel that resulted in the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Valston Graham, suspending prosecutorial services to her Court on Monday (Feb. 4), a notable Barrister-at- Law has given umbrage to the contents of a press release on the matter.
The press release, which was in support of the DPP’s decision, was issued by the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association with the authority of its President, Dahlia Joseph Rowe.
However, in an open letter to the Association’s President, Barrister-at-Law Terrence V. Byron stated that he was startled by the release because the contents did not represent a true viewpoint of the issue.
Addressing Ms. Dahlia Joseph Rowe, Byron wrote: “Dear Madam President, a Press Release issued today over your name concerning what you describe as ‘a most unfortunate incident’ has come to my attention. I am sufficiently startled by what has been put out in the name of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association to feel moved to comment on it and to bring my comments to the attention of the other members of the Association.”
He then listed the following comments:
(1) Information reaching me is that “the incident” concerns an alleged contempt committed in the face of the Court. Yet, up to now, you have given no hint about what “the incident” is. You merely choose to say what was the result of it(!)
(2) I have heard that the member of the legal profession in “the incident” is Mr. Teshaun Vasquez. You have refrained (why I do not know) from naming him.
(3) Teshaun is a valued member of the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions. But you have not indicated what connection the Director of Public Prosecutions might have with “the incident”, or his possible basis for taking the extraordinary decision he has announced.
(4) You could have omitted the words “unbecoming of a Magistrate” and the Press Release would not have appeared to be so laced with bias again the Learned Magistrate.
(5) Your comment that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association wholeheartedly supports the Learned Director of Public Prosecutions in his decision is entirely uncalled for and is almost certainly a conclusion reached without giving the Learned Magistrate an opportunity to be heard.
(6) You have stated the noble goals of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association. But you are plainly taking sides in this matter, without even calling “the incident” what it is, an alleged contempt committed in the face of the Court.
The Barrister-at-Law further wrote that he wishes to state publicly that he did not agree with the press release, noting, “It does not represent a balanced viewpoint. It comes across as a rush to judgment and it would be my frank suggestion that it be revised and reissued to give a more sober and fair-minded statement of the position of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association.”
The matter was resolved on Tuesday (Feb. 6) following a meeting reportedly among the DPP, Magistrate Harris, Acting Chief Magistrate Benjamin and a number of other senior officials of the legal fraternity, where a decision was taken for Prosecutors and Court Orderlies to resume services at Magistrate Harris’ Court.