UPDATE: High Court to rule soon on stay of ‘misconduct’ charges against Singh, Brassington

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Justice Franklin Holder has indicated that he will pass a ruling on the application of whether the Magistrates’ court proceedings brought against Winston Brassington and Dr Ashni Singh by the Government, on May 21, 2018 will be stayed pending the outcome of the challenge of the validity of the “misconduct in public office” charges at the High Court.

File photo: (L) Former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL Winston Brassington leaving the court with some of their lawyers

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’ Courts and to have the charges against Singh and Brassington quashed.

On May 2, 2018, Justice Holder heard the challenge for an interim stay of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts.

Having heard both sides, the Judge then gave SOCU’s lawyers one week to show why he should not grant Nandlall’s application.

Singh’s and Brassington’s legal team included 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, so the hearing for that has commenced.

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), a move which Nandlall contends is unfair as he continues to oppose the decision.

As it pertains to the charges in the Magistrates’ Court, Singh and Brassington are expected to return on June 5, for reports.

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