Decision in cross-complaints involving Mr. Cornelius John, Ms. Ashelle Morgan and Mr. Karim Nelson – arising from incidents on April 13th 2021.
In the interest of transparency and as a servant of the People of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, I formally indicate that, regarding the matters at caption, I first reviewed statements in the matters initially on the 19th of May 2021 and gave directions for further investigative work to be done. I again reviewed the statements on the 28th of May 2021. Thereafter, the casefiles were resubmitted to the Commissioner of Police on a number of occasions and this was detailed by my Memoranda dated 2nd June 2021, 11th June 2021 and 16th June 2021. In response, I have been furnished additional material from stage to stage, up to today’s date. This process will be ongoing as all casefiles remain subject to continuous review.
I appreciate that the matter has caused much public disquiet and wide spread alarm, given the nature of the allegations; a fraction of which have been publicly discussed. Rightly so, I have had to approach the matter with celerity whilst guarding against a rush to judgment, bearing in mind the interweaving facts and interests.
It must however be made clear that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service) is an independent constitutional office. According to section 64(2) of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution Order, Chapter 10 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Revised Edition 2009:
“The Director of Public Prosecutions shall have power in any case in which he considers it desirable to do so—
- to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law (other than acourt-martial) in respect of any offence alleged to have been committed by that person;…” [my emphasis]
Subsection (6) further prescribes:“In the exercise of the powers vested in him by subsection (2) of this section and section 42 of this Constitution, the Director of Public Prosecutions shall not be subject to the direction or control of
any other person or authority.” [my emphasis]
For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to dispel any assumption that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service) is an extension of any Ministry, organisation or other office, particularly the Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. The role of the Police is to investigate while a Prosecutor advises on, not conduct, criminal investigations and prosecutes matters at various courts (that is, lead the case against the accused).
It is an age old tradition of the Office All cross-complaints are submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service) for directions to issue.
In coming to a determination, Prosecutors apply the Code for Prosecutors of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which establishes a two stage test: evidential and public interest. First we consider whether there is sufficient evidence and if so, whether there are public interest considerations, in favour or against prosecution.
On the aforementioned dates, I resubmitted the casefiles for further lines of inquiries to be satisfied, so that I can come to a decision that is comprehensive and justified.
As Director of Public Prosecutions, I esteem my professional obligations to act judiciously: without fear or favour, malice or ill will; regardless to the persons involved. I will not descend nor will I condescend. It is my obligation to uphold and maintain the integrity of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service) as the Chief Prosecutorial Officer.
I am resolute that I will not be swayed by improper influences that seek to heavily encroach on my decision making. I am empowered by the Constitution Order to come to a determination as to the direction of the complaints. I reason that the justice of the situation demands that the following matters are ventilated in a court of law as there are conflicting facts. Given my assessment of the facts and circumstances, applying legal principles and the Code for Prosecutors, I advised the Commissioner of Police to lay the following charges:
- Threatening Language against Mr. Cornelius John in respect of complaints made by Mrs. Nicole John;
- Threatening Language against Mr. Cornelius John in respect of a complaint made by Ms. Ashelle Morgan;
- Wounding and Unlawful discharge of firearm against Mr. Karim Nelson in respect of complaints by Mr. Cornelius John; and
- Assault with intent to commit Wounding against Ms. Ashelle Morgan in respect of a complaint by Mr. Cornelius John.
I have submitted a comprehensive written Opinion to the Commissioner of Police as I do in all instances of cross-complaints. There are a number of witnesses who provided statements in this matter. In the court process, facts, circumstances and legal arguments, can be properly distilled.
Upholding the sanctity of the Constitution, there should be no improper pressure or influence on, or interference with, the exercise of the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, by any entity or individual. I have purposed to divorce myself from public discourse and I am not swayed by any politicking that may intently or inadvertently, directly or indirectly, serve to influence my decision making.
As a Minister of Justice, I am cognizant that justice has to done and seen to be done. I have already addressed my mind to the retainer of a prosecutor.
There are allegations of varying forms of violence which our society abhors. Even so, constitutionally, all persons facing criminal charges are deemed to be innocent, until or unless, a court of law determines guilt. As an ordered society, the Administration of Justice should take its free course, without prejudice, especially when matters are sub judice (meaning, under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere).