THE joint select committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act has rejected a proposal from St Catherine South Western Member of Parliament Everald Warmington for the prosecutorial powers vested in the Integrity Commission (IC), through its director of corruption prosecution (DCP), be removed.
In a multi-pronged submission in March, Warmington, a member of the Andrew Holness-led Cabinet, had argued that with the IC being a committee of Parliament, maintaining prosecutorial powers “would have the effect of Parliament setting up its own investigative arm which proceeds to criminally prosecute a special category of persons”.
He insisted then that this was inconsistent with Jamaica’s democracy and constitutional arrangement, where crimes are investigated by the police and prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Warmington had further argued that the provision of the IC Act, which vests prosecutorial powers in the commission, should be deleted as those powers are constitutionally vested in the DPP under Section 94 of the constitution.
On Thursday, when members of the parliamentary committee deliberated on the proposal, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck sided with Warmington as he argued that the prosecution arm of the IC should properly rest in the office of the DPP.
“I agree with Minister Warmington that the persons [who prosecute on behalf of the IC] should be accountable to the DPP, which effectively is what the Section  implies,” said Chuck as he argued that the legislation governing the IC should be amended to say that the DCP should be seconded from the office of the DPP.
But this was quickly shot down by committee member Julian Robinson who charged that Chuck was conflating two issues.
“The nature of the appointment of the director of corruption prosecution, in my view, should have nothing to do with the office of the DPP. It just so happens that the person who is the incumbent is seconded from that office. But from my perspective that recruitment should be independent of anything to do with the DPP,” said Robinson, who sits on the Opposition benches as the MP for St Andrew South Eastern.
He underscored that the DPP has the final say on whether any prosecution goes ahead, so even if the DCP takes a matter to the courts this can be taken over or halted by the DPP.
“I don’t believe that you need to move the director of corruption prosecution,” Robinson said as he noted that the post was created to ensure than someone is dedicated to the job of prosecuting cases of corruption.
“From where I stand, I would not support the removal of the director of corruption prosecution and I believe the safeguards that are there to guide against someone who may be overzealous exist, because the DPP can overrule,” added Robinson.
He was supported by Government Senator Sherene Golding Campbell who questioned the mischief which Warmington was trying to correct.
Golding Campbell, who recently used her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate to back another Warmington proposal which calls for the auditor general to be removed from the bodies eligible for appointment as IC commissioners, reminded the committee that any amendment that it proposes should be designed to make the system better.
“As far as I am aware, the DCP has been operating in the role and I don’t know that we have any issues with how the role has been performed,” said Golding Campbell.
Opposition Senator Donna Scott Mottley was also quick to join those opposed to the Warmington proposal as she underscored that the DCP has to operate in accordance with the prosecutorial code of practice.
“But it also goes further because it provides that if there is a difference of opinion between the DCP and the director of public prosecutions in relation to a matter, then the opinion of the director of public prosecutions shall prevail.
“So I think that there are sufficient checks and balances in this legislation which should assure everyone that the DCP is not on a frolic of her own,” added Scott Mottley.
In his response, Warmington argued that the Privy Council had already ruled in a similar case when it determined that the Independent Commission of Investigation did not have the power to prosecute. The same, he said, should apply to the IC.
He argued that unless Section 94 of the constitution is amended, the IC could not be given the power to prosecute.
But in the final word, Solicitor General Marlene Aldred pointed to the section of the constitution being relied on by Warmington, which outlines the powers of the DPP.
“So anybody can institute [criminal proceedings] but the DPP has the sole authority to take over any prosecution that was instituted and the DPP has the sole power to stop them or continue them,” noted Aldred.