Tuesday 24 November, 2020

I acted on legal advice, says Bunting of ‘immunity’ certificates

Peter Bunting

Peter Bunting

Former National Security Minister, Peter Bunting, has stated that he received legal advice before he issued ‘good faith certificates’ in 2016 to the three soldiers who are charged with murder in relation to the 2010 killing of chartered accountant, Keith Clarke.

Bunting was responding to Tuesday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that the so-called immunity certificates were invalid, null and void.

The ruling has paved the way for the resumption of the trial that was halted in April 2018 when the lawyer representing the soldiers told the court that his clients could not be tried because they had been granted immunity.

However, the matter was appealed by Clarke’s widow, Claudette, and the court ruling was handed down on Tuesday.  

Bunting, in a statement to the media, said that having acted on the advice he received, he “could not have responsibly taken an administrative decision to deny the soldiers access to the certificates of good faith.”

He said the court was unanimous in concluding that:

  1. The minister’s power to issue good faith certificates under the Emergency Powers Regulations does not infringe, and is not in conflict with, the principle of the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution; and
  2. The Emergency Powers Regulations do not infringe on the prosecutorial powers of the director of public prosecutions under the Constitution.

Bunting argued that the judgment highlighted the fact that “… by issuing the good faith certificates, the minister made no determination in relation to the culpability of the defendants. The function performed by the minister could be described as being administrative in nature, and was not a judicial process. It cannot therefore be said that, in this regard, the minister usurped the role or function of the judiciary.”

And Bunting noted that the court was divided on the issue of whether the delay in the issuing of the certificates of good faith was unfair, and the certificates were therefore null and void.

“The majority indicated that the certificates were null and void due to the length of time that had passed, without giving any indication as to what would have been a reasonable time,” he argued.

However, the court found that the granting of immunity was manifestly unfair and unreasonable, and as such, the soldiers must stand trial for Clarke’s killing.

The immunity certificates were granted to Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin, and Private Arnold Henry nearly six years after they were charged in relation to Clarke's death.

Clarke was killed at his Kirkland Close home in Red Hills, St Andrew on May 27, 2010, during a search by the security forces for the country’s then most wanted criminal, West Kingston strongman, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. Clarke was shot more than 20 times.

Coke was captured the following month and extradited to the United States on gun and drug running charges. He was subsequently sentenced to more than 20 years in a US federal prison.

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