Support for Harold Lovell, Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), came swiftly yesterday, December 15, after the Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association (ABBA) issued a press statement chiding him.
During an Observer AM interview last Friday, December 10, Lovell said he believed that a certain action by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Anthony Armstrong, was politically motivated and, therefore, he would fight him politically.
Lovell is one of three ministers under the former UPP Administration who were prosecuted in what is known as the “Buses Case.”
They were exonerated for the second time on November 23, to the obvious disappointment of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who was openly critical of the High Court Judge’s decision and issued what many considered a “dog whistle” to the DPP.
Shortly after, Armstrong announced that he would be furthering the matter at the Court of Appeal – hence, Lovell’s remarks to the media house.
ABBA’s press release says that “Mr. Lovell has confirmed to the [Antigua and Barbuda Bar] Council that the statement atrribted to him is accurate.”
ABBA goes on to cite the constitutional functions of the DPP and his right to appeal a case under the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 2004, before expressing disappointment in Lovell for his personal statements.
“Without producing evidence, but only stating his opinion, the accusations made by Mr. Lovell against the DPP only serve to undermine the public’s confidence in the legal system. This is unacceptable, particularly from an Attorney-at-Law,” the press release says.
“What is unacceptable,” a professional woman tells REAL News, “is the convenient silence of the Bar Association on other matters of national importance. How come they found their tongue now?” she asks
Another woman, a civil servant, asks: “How is it that so many
things have been said and done in the last seven years around putting the ‘good name of the law’ in a negative light and we never heard from [the Bar]?
“I’m now remembering when [MP Asot Michael] accused the Chief Magistrate of being corrupt. How nothing was heard, then? Me sick and tired!” she declares.
Other residents say that Armstrong “is not God” and that the criticism of the DPP is not only warranted, but necessary in a healthy democracy.
They note that the DPP has been accused of political manipulation before, and cite an instance, in 2020, when he was accused of corruption that involved a sitting Member of Parliament.
The allegation was levelled in an anonymous WhatsApp message widely believed to have been written by Prime Minister Browne, who, when asked directly, said he “pleaded The Fifth,” refusing to incriminate himself.
Armstrong was moved, then, to deny the accusations and to explain his handling of the controversial IHI Case in a press statement issued on October 2, 2020. However, the last word the public heard on this matter from the DPP was that he was seeking legal advice on how to proceed with his defence.
A legal practitioner points our News Room to two other instances – one in the DPP’s native Jamaica – where, he says, questions have been raised about the prosecutor’s conduct. He notes that the actions and motives of officers of the law are open to scrutiny and, accordingly, there should be “no sacred cows” in the justice system.
The lawyer had said, earlier, that the planned appeal of Lovell’s exoneration is “another waste of money” since “the case, from the outset, was full of holes.”
The Political Leader, justifying his opinion that the DPP’s action is politically motivated, asked in which other instance – when a case already has been thrown out by two courts – has there been another appeal.
Meanwhile, the Leadership, Executive and Candidates of the UPP say they continue to stand firmly in Lovell’s corner, as evidenced by their support of Tuesday’s picket of the DPP’s Office.