The manner in which opposition senator, Vynnette Frederick, was arrested on July 11 “invites criticism of the strongest kind”, constitutional lawyer Parnell R. Campbell, QC, says.
The senator was arrested while having lunch with her legal team, political colleagues, and relatives at a restaurant in Kingstown on July 11, hours after a court threw out six perjury charges against her.
Nine charges relating to false declarations, swearing falsely, and fabricating evidence were brought against her later that day.
Speaking Monday on his weekly television programme, during which he explains the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Campbell said the prosecution bringing amended charges against Frederick was lawful.
“But the fact that it is lawful to do something doesn’t mean it is morally right to do it. That’s a difference. And the manner in which it was done invites criticism of the strongest kind,” he said.
He said his comments were not because Frederick is a lawyer, senator, and a prominent citizen from prominent family.
“I am not saying that Miss Frederick is entitled to any special treatment. I am simply saying she is entitled to be treated as a human being.
“And you don’t treat any human being the way she was treated — if the published reports are correct — in those circumstances.”
‘out for vengeance’
Campbell said it was clear to him the authorities were not out only to make an arrest but also to humiliate and embarrass.
“You are out for vengeance, not for justice. And I take very strong objection to treating any human being that way. After all, she is somebody pickney. She didn’t drop out ah holla tree,” Campbell said, using colloquial expressions meaning that a person is someone’s child and therefore, human.
“She is somebody’s daughter. And I say this you know, I have four daughters, and if anyone had treated anyone of them the way that Miss Frederick was treated, I wouldn’t be here sitting before you on this programme. I’d be awaiting a charge or awaiting the hearing of a charge against me. That is not the way you treat people in a civilised country, man. Come on,” Campbell further said.
‘treatment you reserve for terrorists’
He suggested that one or two police officers could have gone to Frederick’s home or office and arrest her there.
The arrest at the restaurant, he said, is “uncivilised behaviour in any language.
“That is treatment you reserve for terrorists and hardened criminals, not a normal citizen.”
“So that those who are involved in the decision to take her into custody in that manner should think again. And how did the police know that she was at a particular restaurant? Somebody must have followed her.”
Campbell said that someone must have gotten annoyed at the fact that the charges were thrown out and decided they were going to teach Frederick a lesson and decided to abuse their authority to humiliate the politician.
“This is St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are not supposed to behave in that uncivilised, barbarous way at all.”
Respect presumption of innocence
Campbell said that Frederick’s guilt or innocence is another story, and noted that the Constitutions presumes her innocent until proven guilty.
“Up to this minute, she remains and innocent person of the charges because the charges have not yet been heard. And you have to respect that presumption of innocence.
“You cannot threat here as if she is already a convicted person being hauled off to jail to begin a sentence. I think that is carrying matters too far.
“That, to me, has all the ingredients of being motivated by malice, ill will, and spite — things that should not enter into the deliberation or thinking of anybody in the prosecution service, or in the Police Force for that matter.”
Reports say that nine officers from the Special Services Unit — a tactical squad, and the Criminal Investigation Department went to arrest the senator.
Campbell questioned why so many officers were necessary.
“To me, that conduct is deplorable,” he said, adding that he does not believe “all the exaggerations about the manner in which she was physically manhandled”.
Campbell urged caution regarding the manner in which authority “is being exploited because today for you, tomorrow for me.
“So, don’t people don’t understand that they are not in the system, prosecuting people forever? Don’t they understand that there will be a reckoning?” he said, adding that the Bible urges us to threat others as we would like to be threated.
“Those involved should be ashamed of that sort of uncivilised behaviour and the motives which led to that legal barbarism. Charge her, yes, but do it in a decent humane way, no to humiliate and embarrass,” Campbell said.