Statement by the Attorney General

On the withdrawal by Mr. Kurt d. a. De Freitas, OBE, QC,

Of his acceptance of the offer of appointment

To the office of Director of Public Prosecutions Dominica

Wednesday 25th September 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning.

Thank you for your attendance.

Regrettably however, your invitation is not the harbinger of good news but rather has been engendered by disturbing and inauspicious circumstances.

Doubtless it will be apparent not only to those of you here, but also to those whether locally, regionally or internationally, who hear or read these words, that for this country, or indeed any country, to function efficiently and effectively it is necessary to ensure that the most suitable candidates, determined on the basis of merit, are appointed to principle public positions.

Such appointments therefore cannot properly be made on the basis of sentiment, misconceived and misplaced notions of loyalty or patriotism, and most certainly not on the basis of xenophobic inclination.

On a number of occasions over recent times, I, and others, have had cause to publicly draw attention to the recent increasing and disturbing trend of mischievous, unpatriotic, sometimes even, malicious and venomous, attacks and machinations upon and against decent individuals, for no other reason than that they have been conscious enough step forward and agree to serve the State. I have warned of the potentially highly damaging and debilitating consequences to the State and those of us who inhabit it, from such reprehensible behaviour.

Recently, mischief-makers have been raising all manner of spurious queries and allegations about Mr. De Freitas, including that he is over 65 and, presumably, therefore not eligible to hold the office of Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sadly, whilst a few are doubtless merely expressing genuine and well-meaning concerns, there are others whose sole objective is to stymie and hamstring the functioning of the organs of state with a view to making the country become or appear to become ungovernable.

As is well known, it was recently announced that Mr. Kurt D. A. De Freitas, OBE, QC, is to take up appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions in Dominica.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that Mr. De Freitas is a lawyer of considerable experience, who has held several very senior legal positions throughout his 35 or so years of legal practice, some twenty (20) years of which he has served as Attorney General in a number of British Overseas Territories (5 1/2 years in the Turks and Caicos; 7 years in St. Helena, Ascension Islands and Tristan da Cunha, and 7 years in Anguilla).

It is therefore deeply regrettable that the above-mentioned admonitions have gone unheeded. More regrettable is the fact that an example of the debilitating consequences of the unjustified and reprehensible attacks upon the character and integrity of individuals has now manifested itself and necessitated this very public statement.

The words of Mr. De Freitas himself, perhaps provide the most eloquent and potent expression of the negative and debilitating consequences of this reprehensible trend towards character assassination emerging in our society.

The question is, are we, as a society, are you, going to tolerate the continuation of this trend?

Here now are the words of Mr. Defreitas in his communication to the Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry for Tourism and Legal Affairs:

"Dear Mrs. Joseph,

Thank you for your e-mail...

My decision to withdraw was not one which I took lightly. It had been an extremely difficult decision for me, not least because I had been looking forward very much to working in Dominica, one of the few remaining places in the Caribbean which I have not yet had the privilege of visiting, although I have had some very positive interactions with Dominicans whom I have come into contact with in other parts of the Caribbean.

In my view, in order to successfully carry out the duties of a position such as a Director of Public Prosecutions, it is essential that the public trust in the institution of the Director's Office is not unfairly and untruthfully maligned and undermined.

I have not yet even taken up appointment and it has been drawn to my attention that I am already being subjected to derogatory, untrue and unfair comments on various web sites in Dominica, by persons who know nothing at all about me and what I have stood for, in the decades in which I have been directly involved in the fair and unequivocal promotion of the rule of law in the Caribbean.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, I had been subjected to great abuse by one politically motivated publication in particular, which had been trying to bully me to undertake prosecutions which had been without justification in law.

In one instance, I had been warned by the writers that if I had not taken a decision to prosecute a particular matter in a manner satisfactory to the publishers, I would be subjected to vilification and driven from office.

Needless to say, I took my decisions in accordance with the evidence before me, and the oaths of my office.

Those decisions turned out to be contrary to what those who had been attempting to bully me had been seeking.

I was then subjected to much abuse and unfair and untrue vilification by the publishers in question who were writing under various assumed names and different web sites in order to evade legal sanctions.

One of the Editors for the publication then wrote to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament (who are unfamiliar with the scurrilous, biased and disgraceful conduct of some Caribbean Correspondents) who published a report on the TCI incorporating that Editors comments, without having given me any opportunity to respond before they published their Report.

If I had been given the opportunity to respond to the FAC before publication of their report, I am confident that the FAC would not have issued their Report with the same content.

...[in] an article...the then Leader of the Opposition in the TCI described the publishers of these unfortunate publications as "Internet Terrorists". I believe that he has aptly described the publishers. This is, I think, significant as the publication in question was once, allegedly, the mouthpiece of the opposition party in the TCI.

It is unfortunate that bloggers in Dominica have now seen fit to refer to, and to quote, these same scandalous publications.

Unfortunately, I could have no recourse against the Foreign Affairs Committee as their report was subject to Parliamentary Privilege and beyond the reach of the courts in any proceedings for libel. ...

I mention all of the above, to highlight my concerns over the negative and untrue remarks to which I am now being subjected to in various internet based publications apparently emanating from Dominica, even before I am to take up appointment as the DPP.

Having been involved in law and order, prosecutions and the administration of justice in the Caribbean for close to thirty-five years, I have grave concerns over the abuse of the principles of free speech when used by some unscrupulous correspondents as a means to unfairly influence prosecutorial decisions.

All the decisions which I have taken over the years in all the countries in which I have served have been fair and in accordance with the evidence presented in police files before me.

I could not, and would not, take any decision which is not supported by the evidence.

It is unfortunate that some persons have already started to prejudge what my decisions should be on matters in Dominica even before I have taken up appointment.

This does not auger well for the administration of justice, and it is for that reason that I have decided to withdraw from the appointment to the post of DPP.

Had this been an appointment to any other post, I would simply have ignored these comments for what they are - untrue, unfounded and malicious/scurrilous.

However, because the decision to prosecute must be judiciously exercised, I am unable to overlook the publications as they seek to impugn my integrity and my fair and impartial decision making, even before I have taken up office.

That would not be a good way for me to start service as the country's DPP.

I would like to again thank you, the Hon AG and other members of the panel for the courtesies extended during the selection process.

I extend my kindest regards and very best wishes to you and to the Government of Dominica.

Yours sincerely,

Kurt De Freitas QC"

Ladies and gentlemen, in the words of the well worn Latin maxim, "Res ipsa loquitor" ("the thing speaks for itself")!