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From left: Senator Ashelle Morgan, Cornelius John, and Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Karim Nelson. (File photos)
From left: Senator Ashelle Morgan, Cornelius John, and Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Karim Nelson. (File photos)
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St. Vincent and the Grenadines will “shortly” know Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Sejilla McDowall’s decision in the case in which a businessman has alleged that government senator Ashelle Morgan was among three people who came to his house when he was shot two months ago.

“I will be fair to everybody, including Ashelle Morgan. There are some people who feel, ‘Where this girl come from all of a sudden that she could be senator?’ Some people don’t like poor people children to advance,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a virtual press conference today (Tuesday).

“Look, I have a mature and fair approach to this thing. I simply say, we will find out shortly what the DPP will do,” said the prime minister, who is also minister of legal affairs.

“And if she charges for whatever offences, there will be a trial. If she doesn’t charge, there will be no trial. And I can’t attempt in any way to influence this. If we want to build our democratic institutions and our institution of justice, we must do it properly,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister’s comments come amidst widespread public discussion about the case, which some observers say suggests that justice in SVG has two faces.

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Sejilla McDowall
Director of Public Prosecution, Sejilla McDowald. (iWN file photo)

A full two months after Cornelius John, 60, was shot at his home on April 13, allegedly by trespassers, no arrests or charges have been brought in the case.

Some persons have argued that the delay is because of the alleged assailants and their positions.

Commissioner of Police, Colin John has said that Morgan, a lawyer who is also deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, along with Karim Nelson, an assistant DPP are persons of interest in the investigation.

He told iWitness News last week that investigators have sought caution statements from John, Morgan, and Nelson.

Police have not disclosed the identity of the third person who, along with Nelson and Morgan, is alleged to have gone to John’s home.

John, the shooting victim, has said that of the trio, each of whom was wearing a face mask, he was only able to recognise Morgan, as he knows her gait, physique and voice, as she grew up in Diamond Estate, where the shooting took place.

On Tuesday, Gonsalves gave his first press conference after his return, last Saturday, from Cuba, where he was for three weeks with his ailing wife, Eloise.

“I see people talking about the rule of law requires that the government, that is to say, me, I do something,” said the prime minister

He said that when someone alleges that a criminal offence has been committed, two important factors arise: that a person is entitled to the presumption of innocence; that person is entitled to procedural fairness (due process of the law).

“Those two things are fundamental in an investigation and a prosecution. I have nothing to do with that. These are not legal niceties. I see one lawyer who writes quite a lot says that I am finding refuge in legalism. I emphatically say it is not a legalism that a person is entitled to a presumption of innocence. That is a bedrock of a fair and just society.”

Gonsalves said that an allegation of criminality must be independently investigated by the police, who, particularly in a serious matter, present their findings to the DPP.

The DPP then reviews the file, and may give further instructions to the police, who responds to those instructions then sends back the file to the DPP — as has been the case in the extant matter.

“Would somebody show me anywhere in the law book, anywhere in the Constitution that any of those things is a mere legalism — in the first place. Secondly, that the prime minister can intrude himself in this,” Gonsalves said.

“From the beginning I tell everyone just wait. Some investigations take longer than others but because Ashelle Morgan is a senator on the government side that she is not entitled to that?”

Ralph Gonsalves
A screenshot of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at Tuesday’s press conference.

Gonsalves had earlier commented on the incident, saying that people must be careful not to offend the laws of defamation.

He had further told the nation that Morgan had called him after the shooting incident.

In his initial comments, the prime minister had also speculated about how the opposition might have responded, had it been one of its members implicated.

However, the public largely concluded that the prime minister’s comments were intended to be an excuse for Morgan’s alleged involvement in the shooting.

On Tuesday, Gonsalves said:

“I see people wiring have brought her guilty. She isn’t charged yet, they have brought her guilty…

“I see a lawyer, everyday, at least newspapers are reporting her or online publication reporting… and she is on all the time on the radio saying what offence Ashelle Morgan should be charged with.

“And nobody among the lawyers has the guts, no one has the guts, the fortitude, to get up and say, ‘What you are doing is wrong’, that there is an investigation ongoing…”

The prime minister noted the police chief’s public comments about the movement of the file between investigators and the DPP’s office.

“Let the DPP do her work,” Gonsalves said. “She (lawyer) is advising which charge should be laid? And nobody at the active bar, among the lawyers, would say anything about that? And that could be fair?

“You notice among other things, I said to you earlier, in dealing with our monument crises  — our monumental challenges  — is, among other things we must be patient yet act with urgency, that we must be flexible yet be focus and stay within the framework of the law,” Gonsalves said, referring to comment he made about recovery from the eruption of La Soufriere in April.

18 replies on “‘We will find out shortly what the DPP will do’ — PM”

  1. urlan Alexander says:

    Comrade continue to spew all the venom you wish. Continue to explain away your version of the law on how a man was shot at his home and no one has been arrested or changed. You cannot spin yourself out of this one. the people have got to a point that see straight through your rhetoric. In order for her not to be charged it must take an intervention from the ‘higher ups’ and it will not be the first time in his country.

  2. C. ben-David says:

    I agree with every word of this statement from our Honourable Prime Minister while repudiating the wicked comments of those who want to convict and imprison people who had never been charged, let alone tried, for a crime they are constitutionally assumed to be innocent of until proven guilty.

    What a wicked set of people we are!

  3. First, it was standing up for a woman, then it was if the shoe was on the NDP foot and now it is some people do not like poor people children to advance. How being poor makes the actions of those accused tolerable? What about Mr. John, isn’t he a poor, self-employed and an elderly man? If this is the way the ULP wants to secure the young people’s support, then St. Vincent would be left in a state worse than that of a piece of tattered garment.

  4. I wonder why so very many others do not get the presumption of innocence. Where is our PM when so very many get locked -up AND BEATEN UP when they are completely innocent. Where is our PM at those times??? Isn’t he Minister of Legal Affairs? Why does he DO NOTHING ABOUT THESE INSTANCES???

  5. sensible person says:

    C. Ben, why does the law not work the same for the rest of us? Why doesn’t the PM utter these words the next time an old man get murdered by a young person. I would love to be a criminal and have this PM for a friend to make me look innocent after doing something very wrong.

  6. Nathan 'Jolly' Green says:

    It stinks because of the undue lack of haste in the case. Had it have been any poor person they would have been hauled into the Kingstown Barracks interview room the same day for questioning and appeared in court the next day with bruised face and swollen lips.

    They may have even been sent to the mental home for evaluation.

    This could never have gone on for four weeks had it been anyone unprotected by the ULP immunity syndrome.

    I have never seen such a delay without the people being charged and in a shooting case no bail would have been allowed.

    The third person missing from the list is simply another stinker.

    There is even said to be a witness who someone tried to get to change their evidence.

    The whole situation is far from normal, the whole procedure is far from normal.

    It stinks, it stinks to high heavens.

    As for the Prime Minister he should have kept his mouth shut from the start, because whatever he says influences the way the DPP and the police behave. He may say it does not, but it does, because everyone is frightened of upsetting him.

    Everyone is in law innocent until proven guilty, but there are different degrees of innocence accepted by public opinion.

  7. It has to be a reason why this has happen and the people who has been involved is trying to keep the shooting a hush subject. All who has been commenting ever think that this subject looks as if its a close case and nothing is going to come off of this incident. If it does its going to be a messy one and it has to involved the man who get shot. He himself is not even making a fuss about what happen. Why the ones who want to see justice done has to be the NDP parties who are trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. You people go on with your lives and try to help the torn vincentian people try to solve what the valcano destroyed.

  8. I concur with all the legal maxims that a man is presumed to be innocent until he is proven to be guilty, and in all matters before the courts natural justice and procedural fairness must be observed to the extent that due process must be given to parties appearing before the courts. That justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done( R v Sussex). Therefore, there is no excuse for the the PM to utter words as, ” Its a case of one woman protecting another.” These very words have the potential to influence public opinion including potential jurors who are also selected from a small pool.

    In the Yuggie Farrell saga, the PM advised his kit and kin not to utter a word on the matter. Why should it be any different when it comes to Aschelle Morgan? Is this a case of the PM advocating selected justice? Is Cornelius John not coming from a poor background? These are questions that is likely to confuse even the potential reason prudent man. The PM’S is all over th place very inconsistent.

    Is it also a case where some ULP supporters feel that they can take the law into their own hands? I had a situation where a pannist from Queens Drive thinks it was just cause to trespass on my property and cut down a coconut tree which he claims that the branch or branches had protruded into his space by one or two feet. Its a sad day for justice in St Vincent when citizens believe that ay can by pass the legal system and take matters in their own hands. What a country.

  9. Yes so true First, it was standing up for a woman but it was also the American judicial standing up for Mrs Marshall when she was banged up by the current press secretary in New York city.The prime minister said in a statement I quote “It was a private matter until she(Mrs Marshall) called the police but I do will what I can to protect him”unquote Well Mr World Boss domestic assault is a very serious offence in North America punishable by imprisonment.The wife beater evaded prosecution by claiming “diplomatic immunity”he was then stripped of that status and expelled from the USA (all this is PUBLIC RECORD)[…] Now look at the hypocrisy of the PM all of a sudden two government bandits allegedly banged up,shot and threatened a citizen on his property and that’s ok because they were standing up for a woman. Heaven help us.

  10. Take warningo says:

    Do any one expect anything to come out of this especially in a country where there is hardly or no accountability, law and order ? are we living in North Korea?

  11. The PM should keep his mouth shut he is incoherent when he babbles we all can see he can’t even get his story straight I think he needs to get rid of the extra faces right now he has too many.

  12. Ben what kind of nonsense you are speaking? What the public is calling for ia natural justice and procedural fainess and due process to happen. The public is not calling for the imprisonment of innocent person,they are saying that the rule of law should be observed and that justice should no only be done but must seen to be done as in R v Sussex. You seem to always drink the ulp soup.

  13. More than likely the DPP is gonna rule in the favor of the accused..the Cumrod has how this plays out ..the Cumrod set the precedent for these kinds of matters yrs ago.

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