High Court grants stay halting Magistrates’ Court from hearing charges against Singh, Brassington

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The High Court on Monday ruled in favour of the action brought by lawyers, for former Government officials Dr Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington, to have a stay granted on the case brought against them by the State at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts in which the duo are being accused of “misconduct in public office; contrary to common law” as it relates to the sale of three plots of state land.

(L) Former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL Winston Brassington

The ruling was made by Justice Franklyn Holder who in granting the interim stay halted the Magistrates’ Court from proceeding with the case until the acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire hears the constitutional challenge to the charges.

The substantive case seeking to have the court quash the overall matter will be heard before Justice George-Wiltshire on May 25.

This publication understands that the Justice Holder in his ruling was concerned that an inferior court would be concurrently hearing a matter also at the High Court.

On April 12, 2018, The Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) instituted legal proceedings against former Finance Minister, Dr Singh and former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) CEO Brassington for what it says is “misconduct in public office: contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of State land.

However, former Attorney General under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, Anil Nandlall in challenging these matters for what the defence contends are frivolous charges, filed the two High Court actions seeking to have an interim stay of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court and to have the charges against Singh and Brassington quashed.

Singh’s and Brassington’s legal team includes Senior Counsel Stanley Moore, Sase Gunraj, Ronald Burch-Smith and Mark Waldron.

Following the in-chambers hearing, Nandlall, along with his legal team, told reporters that “We are challenging the legality and validity of the charges and that will take some time to determine; in the meantime, we want an interim order staying the hands of the Magistrate from going forward.”

Senior Counsel and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran is of the view that the charges may be unconstitutional on the basis that Singh and Brassington were not “public officers” in accordance with the Constitution.

Various lawyers have also recently pointed out that using the definitions of “public officer”, “public office,” and “public service” as defined in Article 232 of the Guyana Constitution would exclude both Singh and Brassington, from the charges of “Misconduct in Public Office: Contrary to the Common Law.”

It was posited that this was “an open-and-shut case”, as neither Singh nor Brassington are “public officers” and as such, the law under which they are charged (based on both the Constitution and legal precedents all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)) cannot be applied to them.

After the SOCU charges were filed, Nandlall on behalf of PPP/C Members of Parliament (MPs) took to the court to have Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and former Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton charged with the same offence.

Ministers David Patterson, Winston Jordan and Dr Rupert Roopnaraine were also subsequently charged with the same offence.

However, all of those charges were discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

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