By Gemma Handy
Embattled MP Asot Michael has responded to calls from the Bar Association asking him to publicly apologise to Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh after accusing her of “corruption and skullduggery”.
The St Peter MP said he already did just that in a press release he issued on Monday in which he acknowledged his remarks were “inappropriate”, adding, “I fear that I as a human may have fallen short in this regard and accordingly must and do apologise”.
“I have no issue with the Bar Association’s statement, I respect the Bar Association but I already sent a public apology,” he told Observer yesterday.
The MP previously accused Walsh of exceeding her jurisdiction when she issued a bench warrant for his arrest due to his failure to turn up for a civil court hearing before her.
He also questioned her impartiality – and threatened to have her removed from the bench via a WhatsApp message he sent to her.
The Bar Association’s Council said no litigant should – “under any circumstances” – communicate with a judge or magistrate about his or her case by direct private communication.
“It is highly irregular and can itself bring accusations of bias and collusion, between the litigant and the judge or magistrate, from the opposing party,” a Council statement said.
“It is standard practice in litigation that both parties appear at the same time in open court or chambers before the judge or magistrate and that matters are conducted in the full view of all parties. This is to ensure full transparency in the proceedings,” it explained.
The Association said it takes Michael’s accusations of corruption “very seriously” and challenged him to present the evidence he previously claimed to have.
The civil case Walsh was presiding over centres on allegations that Michael owes thousands of dollars to a third party who provided services for an event he hosted some years ago. Walsh recently recused herself from the matter, citing Michael’s threats as her reason.
Michael had claimed Walsh was biased against him because he is a public figure, and also because she is a defendant in a separate case Michael is involved in. The latter relates to High Court civil proceedings brought by Michael to challenge a request by the English Crown Prosecution Service under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.
“Above all the Chief Magistrate is a member of the judiciary and the utmost respect must be shown to her at all times,” the Council added.
Michael is no stranger to controversy having notoriously been detained by police in London in 2017 amid investigations that he had received bribes from British investor Peter Virdee.
The MP was promptly relieved of his ministerial portfolios, which included investment and trade, by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Yesterday, Michael also denied widespread media reports that he had been arrested in London, saying he had merely been “detained for an interview to assist with investigations”.
On Monday, inside sources told Observer the incumbent ABLP party could soon announce a replacement candidate for the St Peter seat – one Michael has held for the last 16 years. Browne had already said if Michael was charged with corruption he would be prevented from running in the next general election on an ABLP ticket.
The PM had even singled out media personality Shermain Jeremy as a possible substitute.
Earlier this week, Browne told Observer he was “simply fed up” with Michael.