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Time To Close The Book On Section 34
The Court of Appeal on Wednesday brought closure to the matter of Section 34 that had become a political albatross around the neck of the State and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, with the Opposition seizing every opportunity to blame the Government for something on which it was a willing partner. In an unanimous decision, the court ruled against businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ameer Edoo, and three companies who had sought to have their cases thrown out on the basis that Section 34 gave them that right.
The new act purported to prohibit prosecutions for criminal offences after ten years from the date the offence was allegedly committed, with certain exceptions, including cases where an accused evaded the process of the court. It became law on August 31. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, through letters and discussions with the Attorney General (AG), identified certain fundamental flaws in the legislation and the State acted immediately.
The AG briefed Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who recalled Parliament and moved swiftly to repeal the offending section of the legislation with retroactive effect, thereby denying anyone the opportunity to exploit the flaws and escape justice. She also fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney for misleading the Cabinet on the matter.
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