By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION leader Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday there are grounds for a civil suit to be considered in the aftermath of the exoneration of former PLP Senator Frank Smith, although he added Mr Smith cannot be “compensated monetarily” for the ordeal he and his family have experienced.
Mr Davis made these remarks yesterday during a press conference held at the Progressive Liberal Party’s headquarters, where he also doubled down on calls for the resignation of the Cabinet ministers who were involved in the bribery case – Health Minister Dr Duane Sands and National Security Minister Marvin Dames. Mr Davis also called for further scrutiny of the Office of the Attorney General in the aftermath of Mr Smith’s acquittal.
On Friday, Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt acquitted and discharged Mr Smith of all 15 criminal charges after finding fault with numerous “inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” in the Crown’s case, which she further said was “undermined” by its own witnesses.
When asked yesterday if there are grounds for a civil suit to be considered, Mr Davis replied: “There are grounds and I think efforts are now being made to review the approach that they’ll take. Counsel are now being instructed to look at the evidence as has been had.
“I think it’s very important to get the written script, the written judgment of the magistrate to aid in preparation of any case for malicious prosecution and the like going forward. And I think that might be the only, last piece of the puzzle, for counsel to give its proper advice on the way forward in respect to the damage to reputation incurred to Frank Smith, and of course the…uncertainty and anxiety visited upon his family over the last year with respect to this matter.
“He cannot be compensated monetarily for it but I think… just for the purposes of the principle, to ensure things like this never happen again. This is (a) complete departure from the norm.”
Regarding any possible parliamentary action, Mr Davis said: “We have not caucused on what action we will take in Parliament as yet, (with) regard to this.
“This is our first step towards ensuring that the administration with justice could remain pure. And for it to remain pure, we have to purge the filthy water that (is) now flowing through a stream.”
In her ruling, Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt criticised both Dr Sands and Mr Dames for the “egregious” way in which they interacted with principle witness Barbara Hanna prior to a police investigation into her claims, charging that their conduct gave the appearance of a “political flavour to a curious bystander.”
In the wake of these remarks, Mr Davis called for their resignations, saying it is cause for concern that ministers were “. . .acting out what seems to be a predetermined script written to fulfil a political narrative on corruption that was false from the start.”
“The learned magistrate recalled how the minister of health had been given a campaign contribution by the virtual complainant (Ms Hanna) by the minister’s own admission under oath,” Mr Davis said.
“The virtual complainant had a pending application for an extremely lucrative contract before the Public Hospital Authority, and based on sworn evidence, (Dr Sands approved) . . .that very lucrative contract and not the board. The board had concerns about this award and referred the process of the award to the internal auditor to investigate for impropriety.”
Quoting the magistrate’s criticisms, Mr Davis said if these ministers do not step down on their own, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis should fire them.
“He must fire them,” Mr Davis said. “We have made the call today. We say if they don’t do it of their own volition then the prime minister must act. If the prime minister then (does) not act, then we know how to lump them all.”
Mr Davis also criticised the Office of the Attorney General.
“The behaviour of the attorney general must also be reviewed and appropriate actions taken in accordance with generally accepted principles of ethical conduct having regard to the outturn of this case and specifically the cited conduct of his office during the Frank Smith case.
“Concerning the conduct of the attorney general, I note that lawyers are bound to act as ministers of justice before the courts,” Mr Davis continued. “There is no doubt in my mind that both the attorney general and the lead counsel for the Crown should have stopped this case before it reached the stage of a no-case submission.
“This is certainly an issue to look into to determine whether the attention of the ethics committee of the Bar Council should be engaged.”
Mr Davis went on to say this matter reflects the “moral and ethical character” of everyone from the nation’s leader to the “ordinary back bencher” of the Free National Movement.
“It appears that they are willing to do anything to win an election, even if it means exacting victor’s justice on their political opponents,” he said. “They would use the law and the police to exact vengeance on their political opponents.”
Regarding whether this could set a precedent for any future incidents of Cabinet ministers being hauled before the courts should the PLP be elected, Mr Davis said he could not speak to that at this time.
“All I could say to you is this: We follow the law. What they have done is a complete departure from the norm. They did not follow the law. That’s why the magistrate could have remarked that the process…was inappropriate.
“So we will follow the law. There will be no filthy water contaminating our stream of justice.”
He also provided the media with copies of a letter he sent to Dr Minnis on July 18, 2017, regarding the arrests of former Deputy Speaker Dion Smith and former PLP Housing Minister Ken Dorsett.
In the letter, Mr Davis noted: “There are consequences for these things too. And mark me well: the persons responsible for what I had described will one day stand before the bar of justice to answer for what they have done — and are still doing.”