KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – It is premature to celebrate the High Court judgement this week that said the Chief Magistrate should have summoned Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to answer private criminal complaints against him, lawyer Anthony Astaphan said yesterday.
“We have the possibility of appeal on whether the learned judge was right on the question of leave,” Astaphan, a member of Gonsalves’ legal team said on radio.
Astaphan, a Dominican senior counsel, however, said that it is possible that the legal team would appeal the judge’s decision. “If we don’t do that, we will then go to the trial, Nov. 30.
“Whichever way it goes, there is going to be an appeal on what I will call the substantive judgement of the judge on whether or not the learned Chief Magistrate was right in her decision not to issue the summons,” he said.
“… all that we have [now] is a difference of opinion between a magistrate and a High Court judge … as an interpretation of the words in context that were alleged to have been said by Dr. Ralph Gonsalves,” Astaphan further stated.
“This is like a first step forward in a thousand-step march towards the end of this process. It is not a victory,” he said.
Vynnette Frederick, who failed to win the West St. George seat for the New Democratic Party in the Dec. 13, 2010 general election, brought the charges against Gonsalves.
“Ah mean, Bayliss would be a very unfortunate fellow if he send a daughter to study law, and came back and get a son, … a tomboy,” Gonsalves is quoted as saying.
Frederick’s lawyers in their Jan. 11 application claimed that Gonsalves’ statement referred to her sexual orientation and affected her returns at the poll.
The following day, Chief Magistrate Sonya Young refused to issue summons for Gonsalves to come to court to answer the private charges against him.
On Jan. 13 Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams took over and discontinued the charges and Frederick’s lawyers applied for judicial review.
The High Court found that their case has a reasonable prospect for success and that the Chief Magistrate misdirected herself in not issuing the summons.
“This is not a finding that on the merit that there was any absolute prospects of success or no prospects of success in respect of prosecuting or defending the charges that have been filed,” Astaphan said.
“We think that greater latitude should have been given to the Chief Magistrate but that’s matter for argument in the court. But, even if at the end of that process that does not go in accordance with how we perceive that it ought to go, there is the question of the trial before the Chief Magistrate.
“And there is always the possibility of the intervention of the Director of Public Prosecution. I don’t want to say that that will happen, I have no proof that it will…” Astaphan said.