CCJ’s Ruling: “distillation” of role and functions of DPP -Former AG Williams 

Former Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams believes that the recent ruling handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the Marcus Bisram vs The DPP legal rumble, brings to an end the debate over the Separation of Powers doctrine and the role of every arm of Government.

According to the Former AG, the CCJ’s seminal decision settles some very important legal principles which have been engaging the attention of our courts. Williams pointed out that in paragraph (74) of its Summary Judgement the CCJ elucidated the doctrine of the Separation of Powers, “There is no longer any debate as to whether the Separation of Powers doctrine is an unwritten principle of the Constitution to which courts must give effect. The authorities are legion. These authorities all make the point in one way or another that parliament is not permitted to enact legislation that would compromise the decisional authority properly vested in a court.”

According to Williams, it is important to note that the members of the ‘Commonwealth’ are all former British ‘Colonies’ who received the laws of England as our law, called the ‘Common Law’ as opposed to the ‘Civil Law’, the latter being a system of codified laws. A common feature of the Common Law jurisdictions is that they were given Westminster-type written constitutions which give Attorneys General a purely civil jurisdiction and not criminal. This means that unlike the Attorneys General in America who have criminal jurisdiction and can bring criminal proceedings against persons in the courts, the Attorney General in Guyana cannot, he pointed out.

The Former PNC Executive noted that under Guyana’s Constitution the DPP is solely empowered to institute criminal proceedings and to discontinue them. If proceedings are brought by others (the Police) the DPP can take over such proceedings and either continue or discontinue them. So we see Guyana’s Constitution excludes our Attorney General from instituting criminal proceedings, Williams said.

In addressing the powers of the DPP, Williams pointed to paragraph 19 of the Case Summary in referring to the Office of The DPP; it stated inter alia,’ In the exercise of her prosecutorial powers under the Constitution, the DPP is under no obligation to obey any instruction or direction from the Attorney General or other official of the Executive.” Basil Williams, enjoyed some major successes while serving as Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs between the period 2015-2020, including the President’s third term case which he won at the level of the CJJ.

Since being installed into office in August 2020 the PPP regime has been on a nasty campaign of control and domination; of which the office of the DPP is a victim, Williams argued. He believes that an independent Office of the DPP is a cornerstone of a strong criminal justice system and as such it must be free of political interference.

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