Wednesday 9th March, 2005

 

Judges exempted from declaring assets, liabilities

 
 
 
 
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BY JUHEL BROWNE

Supreme Court and magistrates courts judges may have received an exemption from declaring their assets and liabilities under the Integrity in Public Life Act, even though Government ministers are required to do so.

Attorney General John Jeremie said yesterday that as far as he knew, judges were supposed to be exempt from those listed as people in public life under the act.

“My understanding is, although you will have to speak with the Chief Justice on this, and you have to speak with the Integrity Commission on this, my understanding is that an exemption was granted for this year from filing,” he said.

However, when contacted yesterday, the commission’s registrar Albert Atkins said he could not answer any question regarding any exemptions for the judges.

The judiciary’s acting court protocol and information officer, Ted Joseph, was also contacted yesterday and asked to confirm whether the exemption was granted, and if not, whether the judges filed any declarations under the act.

Although Joseph said he would issue a response yesterday, up to press time, none was received.

Last week, the commission said that Labour Minister Anthony Roberts, and his predecessor, Point Fortin MP Larry Achong, had failed to declare statements of registrable interests for the year ended December 31, 2003.

However, the commission did not identify anyone else, including judges, as having failed to file their declaration documents for 2003.

Judges of the Supreme Court and magistrates’ courts sought to be exempt from the Integrity of Life Act on the basis that the relevant provisions of the act and of the Constitution, as amended, are unconstitutional.

In the Senate on December 17, 2004, Jeremie said the Government agreed the relevant positions were unconstitutional after receiving advice from the Judicial and Legal Service Commission chairman, and the Integrity Commission, among others.

Jeremie then said the Government would “move quickly to repeal the offending provisions of the legislation and of the Constitution.”

“I think we have drafted the legislation, but the legislation is not yet complete,” he said yesterday.

“The Government is committed to righting constitutional wrongs.”

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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