Basdeo Panday v Superintendent Wellington Virgil (Senior Superintendent of Police)

Facts

The appellant (P) appealed against a decision of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago to order a retrial of three offences of knowingly making false declarations as to his financial affairs contrary to the Integrity in Public Life Act (Trinidad and Tobago) 1987 s.27(1)(b).

P was the leader of the opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, and the former prime minister. As a person in public life he had been required by s.13 of the 1987 Act to file annually a declaration of his financial affairs. He had been convicted by the chief magistrate of making false declarations. P's appeal against conviction was granted on the ground of apparent bias by the chief magistrate, namely alleged conversations with the Chief Justice and Attorney-General in which the magistrate felt they were trying to influence his decision. A retrial was ordered.

P argued that (1) the prosecution had been time-barred because (a) by the Summary Courts Act (Trinidad and Tobago) 1918, in every case where no time for making a complaint was "specially limited", the time limit was six months from when the complaint arose; (b) the Integrity in Public Life Act (Trinidad and Tobago) 2000 was subject to the six-month time limit under the 1918 Act, and accordingly, by the Interpretation Act 1962 the same six-month time limit applied to the 1987 Act; (2) any further proceedings should have been stayed as an abuse of process because the chief magistrate in convicting him had been influenced by improper government pressure; (3) it would be an abuse of process to retry him because of his age, the poor state of his heath, and the substantial costs he would incur in defending himself again.

Held

(1) (a) It was clear that the time for making a complaint under the 1987 Act was "specially limited" by s.28(b) of the 1987 Act to five years after the putative defendant ceased to be a person in public life, so the 1918 Act did not apply. (b) Unless a contrary intention appeared, which it did not in the instant case, s.27 of the 1962 Act expressly allowed legal proceedings to be instituted in respect of any offence committed "against the written law so repealed" "as if the written law had not been repealed". Accordingly, the five-year time limit applied to the charges against P under the 1987 Act. (2) Even if P could show that the government had exercised unlawful influence on the original trial, he could not show an abuse of executive power that called for a permanent stay of further proceedings, R. v Horseferry Road Magistrates Court Ex p. Bennett (No.1) [1994] 1 A.C. 42 considered. His convictions had been quashed and he had been returned to the position he was in before the trial. His success should not gain him immunity from a fair trial on charges properly brought. (3) P had not raised the additional abuse of process arguments before the Court of Appeal, and they should not have been raised on the instant appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

Comment

Charges against the former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago of knowingly making false declarations as to his financial affairs had been brought within the five-year time limit under the Integrity in Public Life Act (Trinidad and Tobago) 1987. Although his convictions had been quashed for apparent bias by the chief magistrate, he had not been entitled to a stay of further proceedings.

Read the full case report here.