By Elesha George
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Steadroy Benjamin told Observer that the country’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) will proceed on special leave to appeal a ruling of professional misconduct against him.
Benjamin said DPP Anthony Armstrong had initially intended to resign his position with immediate effect pending the appeal but it was decided otherwise.
“As of Monday, he will no longer be in the position. He will be given an opportunity to prosecute his appeal. Someone has been identified to act as Director of Public Prosecutions in the interim and the office will continue to flow as it ought to in the circumstances,” the AG explained.
Benjamin said the name of the individual is being withheld pending further confirmation, however, well-placed sources told Observer that Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh has been tipped to be the acting DPP.
Meanwhile, Armstrong’s special leave will last for three months in the first instance and could be extended up to one year. He will not be able to function as DPP until the matter is complete.
Jamaica’s Disciplinary Committee – the General Legal Council (GLC) – found the attorney “guilty of professional misconduct” by acting contrary to the laws of Jamaica when he signed as a witness to a document for a client who was not physically present.
Michael Adams, the man who brought the accusations against Armstrong, told the council, through his attorneys, that Armstrong had represented him in the purchase of three properties between 1999 and 2002 during which time he resided in the United States.
He said he often paid Armstrong in cash for his legal services when he would visit Jamaica.
However, in 2003, Adams was imprisoned in the United States.
About one year later, he reportedly inquired about the properties and discovered that all three properties had been transferred and sold, allegedly without his consent.
The document pertaining to the sale of at least one of the properties had his signature affixed to it. The document also indicated that Armstrong had witnessed the signing.
While the council was not satisfied that the properties were sold without Adams’ consent, they reprimanded the attorney for signing as a witness knowing that Adams, who was in prison in the United States at the time, was not present.
The council described the attorney’s actions as being “the height of recklessness” and a move that could discredit the legal profession.
“By witnessing a legal document, the witness is saying that he saw the person sign same which was not true,” the report read.
When contacted last Friday, Armstrong told Observer “I have no comments”.
He later told another reporter on Sunday that he would respond at an appropriate time.
The council did not state what the penalties of its judgement would be but sources tell Observer the attorney may be fined $250,000 and pay costs of $30,000 to the GLC.