chief prosecutor Paula Llewellyn on Thursday suggested that Dirk Harrison was out of line when he used the official letterhead of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to make a recommendation for a firearm permit for someone with a conviction.
Additionally, Llewellyn said that any Crown counsel who, in their personal capacity, wishes to assist anyone via a letter or reference, ought to do so using stationery unique to them in their private capacity.
Llewellyn was responding to a quote attributed to Harrison, a former deputy director of public prosecutions, in Thursday’s Gleaner relating to a letter he had written in 2010, on the letterhead of the ODPP, to the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), on behalf of a man whose firearm licence was revoked.
The existence of the letter was made public by St Mary Western Member of Parliament Robert Montague on Tuesday in the House of Representatives as he accused the Integrity Commission of bias against him in an addendum to its 2017 special investigation report.
In that report, which covered the years 2012 to 2018, the commission had concluded that Montague and Peter Bunting, during their tenures as national security minister, had acted improperly in the award of gun licences to men of “questionable character”.
Both men have consistently insisted that they did nothing wrong and that they had acted in accordance with the law.
However, in the addendum, which was tabled in the legislature two weeks ago, the Integrity Commission cleared Bunting of wrongdoing, but said it had no reason to disturb the report in relation to Montague.
In the Gleaner story Harrison, in responding to the revelation that he had written the letter on ODPP stationary, said, “Just like a pastor or a police officer or a school principal would do, they would be writing, not with their home address, but write based on where their office is.”
However, Llewellyn, in a statement on Thursday, said that official letterhead correspondence is used by Crown Counsel to conduct the official business of the ODPP.
“Our office does not issue letters of recommendation in respect of persons wishing to pursue their personal endeavours, including the application for a firearm user’s licence. That is not a part of our standard operating procedures as prosecutors in a public office. The letterhead bears the imprimatur or approval of the DPP in whose name all prosecutions are conducted and on whose behalf all prosecutors act, which is why it should be strictly used for the business of the office,” Llewellyn said.
“I wish to state categorically that at no time as the incumbent DPP, given the date of the letter, was I aware of this letter of recommendation, and at no time was this discussed with me or approved by me,” the DPP said, adding that she only became aware of the existence of the letter, which was issued to the FLA by Harrison, through the media this week.
“This course of conduct would never have been approved by me as DPP,” added Llewellyn.
She pointed out that the constitutional mandate of the ODPP is solely to institute, undertake, and discontinue prosecutions of criminal matters before the courts.
Llewellyn also reminded that “the ODPP is a public office with critical public functions unlike a lawyer in private practice, or a principal or teacher, as unlike these other professionals, decisions that we make, given our remit, can adversely affect the liberty or reputation of any citizen irrespective of their station in life”.
As such, she said, prosecutors must be careful to act professionally and transparently so as not to compromise their position or do anything that may undermine the credibility of the ODPP or bring it into disrepute.
“Our remit under the constitution includes the prosecution of persons with gun offences. Therefore, it is my view that it would be inappropriate for any Crown counsel or deputy DPP, who is the agent of the DPP under the constitution, whether in their private or public capacity, to issue a recommendation for a convicted person to an agency outside of their work process,” Llewellyn said.