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St. Kitts-Nevis Bar Association supports decision by DPP to suspend prosecutorial services

By CMC

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Magistrate Court (File Photo)

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Feb 5, CMC – The St. Kitts-Nevis Bar Association Tuesday said it “wholeheartedly” supports the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to suspend prosecutorial services to Magistrate Donna Harris “until further notice”.

DPP Valston Graham confirmed the suspension following an incident in the court on Monday between the crown counsel and the magistrate and that she later asked the counsel to leave her courtroom.

Graham speaking on WINN FM radio said that he made a decision to not only suspend prosecutorial services but also court orderlies with immediate effect and until further notice.

“I need to make something very clear I would never be an obstructionist to justice. My job is the furtherance of the delivery of justice in this Federation. So when I took the decision …to suspend my prosecutors and court orderlies from appearing before Magistrate Harris it was done with proper justification in my view.

“I will meet with senior magistrate Mr. (Renold) Benjamin and I will try to resolve the issue but I find it intolerable the behaviour of Magistrate Harris. You cannot insult, ridicule and denigrate the prosecutors that appear before you and without justification.

“I have tolerated it long enough I am not putting up with it anymore. Until the magistrate gets it right and until I am satisfied that my prosecutors are going to be treated with respect I’m sending no prosecutor back before her, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

The DPP said he has since written to Benjamin, who is also the acting Chief Magistrate, seeking an urgent meeting on the matter.

The St. Kitts-Nevis Bar Association said that “members of the legal profession have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the manner, unbecoming of a Magistrate, in which Magistrate Harris, addresses and conducts herself towards lawyers appearing before her.”

In a statement Tuesday, the Bar Association described Monday’s incident as “most unfortunate,” raises serious issues which go to the heart of the administration of justice here.

“The Bar Association is satisfied that the occurrence is by no means an isolated one” and supported the decision of DPP Graham to suspend prosecutorial services to Magistrate Harris’ court until the issues surrounding the conduct on the Bench of Magistrate Harris have been satisfactorily addressed.

“The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association wholeheartedly supports the DPP in his decision,” it said, adding that it is mandated by law to among other things “to promote good relations within the profession and between the profession and persons concerned in the administration of justice in Saint Christopher and Nevis; promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law and maintain the honour and independence of the Bar in its relations with the judiciary and the executive.

“While we appreciate that every judicial officer has the prerogative within the law to manage his or her Court as he or she deems appropriate, we also recognize that Attorneys-at-Law are also officers of the Court and that mutual respect between Bench and Bar is paramount in furthering the proper administration of justice.

“The Association is monitoring the situation and trusts that it will be swiftly resolved in the best interests of the rule of law”.

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