I’m glad that the PLP, in the form of the last PLP Attorney General, has also raised the issue of the OBA’s current Attorney General, Mark Pettingill, overstepping his remit in releasing a press statement which intrudes on the remit of the DPP.
As I noted in an earlier post, the AG, in commenting on the case, had transgressed constitutional separations between the role of the AG and the DPP/Police.
The role of the AG is to advise the Government; it is outside of the AG’s remit to comment on legal cases in the manner that the AG did. To do not only makes it appear that the AG is disrespecting the office of the DPP, but also raises the spectre of political interference with the courts.
As I had noted, by releasing an press release to the media, the AG had opened the OBA to conspiracy theories of political interference – theories of which were already bubbling away due to both who the accused was (the son of an OBA Cabinet Minister) and, especially, the way the case was dismissed through the Crown failing to present evidence.
The AG’s intervention was not a welcome one, and far from dispelling conspiracy theories it has had the effect of pouring the proverbial fuel on the fire.
The only comment the AG should have made would have been was to have pointed out that such questions addressed issues outside of his remit and to direct questions regarding the case to the DPP or the Police.
Anything further would have been inappropriate for the AG, raising issues of political interference and transgressing of constitutional roles – which is exactly what has now happened.
This was a counter-productive and, quite frankly, completely avoidable situation.
Which makes it all the more shocking that it has been done by someone who should be advising the Government about legal matters – instead the AG would appear to have made himself appear ignorant of the law (constitutional roles and responsibilities), hardly instilling respect in the Ministers abilities.
This is yet another apparent misstep by the AG, following his apparent ignorance of the Ministerial Code of Conduct as regards ‘Jetgate’, questions being whispered about his handling of the aborted promotion of a Bermudian to the head of the DPP and questions also being raised about inappropriate hiring practices.
There was also the rather needless provocation of conservatives by the AG during the debate on amending the Human Rights Act as regards sexual orientation (while I supported his pro-amendment position, he articulated this in a needlessly divisive way).
As I’ve said before, based on the reported evidence of 2.1 grams of marijuana, I agree that the defendant should not have been taken to court – unless there is additional circumstances to the incident that are being withheld from the public.
That being said, the handling of the case raises some curious questions, and the AG’s rather bumbling interference in the form of his press statement raises even more questions about either political interference or the AG’s incompetence.
There is a saying, I believe it’s formally called ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ that one shouldn’t ‘attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity’.
I am personally willing to accept that in this particular case the AG’s actions were well-intentioned and not part of political interference on his part (and I sincerely hope that is the case) – and in doing so, especially with his track-record of missteps over the last year, I attribute his actions here to ‘stupidity’ – in other words, incompetence.
There have been calls for the current AG to be replaced due to his actions which have been seen as incompetence.
The Opposition has echoed these calls.
One can’t help but feel that calls for the AG’s replacement will grow, both within the OBA (for causing them needless political problems) and from without, as a result of this apparent constitutional breach of his.
This of course plays into additional dynamics, including internal OBA tensions (it is thought that Pettingill forms a ‘troika’ of sorts with Cannonier and Crockwell within the Cabinet, breeding resentment from old UBPers – recall that Pettingill and Crockwell were founders of the BDA), which all makes it even more interesting from a purely political perspective.
The more missteps made by the AG, the more needless political controversy he generates, the more he damages the position of the Premier, politically speaking; at the same time, if the Premier moves to replace him, he weakens his own position within Cabinet – for the Premier it’s increasingly a lose-lose situation for him. The only question is which choice loses least.
Ultimately though, if the AG appears ignorant of the laws he’s supposed to be advising the Government on, and at the center of needless controversy, does he deserve to keep his position?
At the moment, he sure looks like more of a liability than an asset.