ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Now that a date has been set for the forgery case of MP Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer is again protesting his appointment as attorney general.
Spencer said his opposition to the appointment, on June 13, is based on a “conflict of interest” issue since Benjamin has responsibility for police, prison, the magistracy and legal affairs.
“This is a matter that ought to be taken seriously and if justice is not done, I don’t think this matter should be allowed to rest. This is a very serious matter which strikes at the heart of our democracy and court system and whether or not the courts are there to protect and safeguard the interest of all people,” Spencer said.
The leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), who first wrote to Prime Minister Gaston Browne on the matter in late June, yesterday said he was yet to receive a response.
“It was extremely poor judgment on the part of the prime minister to have done that. But I believe that was deliberate, a sort of in you face situation, knowing fully well this matter is outstanding,” Spencer said.
Benjamin’s case has been pending in the magistrates’ court for six years while his challenge to the charges were being heard in the three superior courts – the High Court, then Court of Appeal and finally the Privy Council.
In April, the decision of the Privy Council paved the way for the prosecution to proceed after the Law Lords ruled that Benjamin was wrong in his argument the police ought not to have charged him because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had advised them to wait.
Since the ruling three months ago, several individuals had been asking what had become of Benjamin’s case, since there was no word of a trial date.
Reacting to the news that October 1 is the date for a hearing, Spencer said, “It is a very interesting situation developing in this matter, at least to hear that the matter is coming up in court, is something. This is a public interest matter, so I would hope that the public would avail themselves of the opportunity of going and getting a sense of what is happening.”