Former Director of Public Prosecutions Wayne Rajbansie rarely spoke to media during his four-year tenure as the territory’s top prosecutor, and remained tight-lipped after leaving his post in August.

But Mr. Rajbansie ended that public silence last week when he issued a 1,000-plus word statement that criticised the website Virgin Islands News Online for reports that he said were “inaccurate, misinformed and designed to injure my reputation.”

In that same statement, Mr. Rajbansie also responded to Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards’ speech at a ceremony to mark the beginning of the new law year last month, when she remarked that she rarely saw the former DPP in court.

While not calling her by name, Mr. Rajbansie – who was given a two-month contract by the Ministry of Health and Social Development on Oct. 10 to help draft a Sexual Offences Act, according to the ministry – referred to the senior magistrate’s comment as “injudicious” and “myopic.”

VINO report

On April 27, VINO reported that Mr. Rajbansie would be stepping down as a prosecutor in August.

That report stated that Mr. Rajbansie’s tenure as DPP was “mixed,” and that “there are conflicting reports as to whether he had any interest in a contract renewal, or if the government wanted him gone.”

The former DPP strongly disputed what he called a “veiled suggestion” by VINO that government officials may have been against renewing his contract.

“My second contact of employment covered the period 15th August 2014 to 15th August 2016. It was my decision not to seek a renewal of the contract,” he stated. “The veiled suggestion that the government did not want to renew the contract is a spurious claim.”

‘Craven bloggers’

Along with disputing the report, Mr. Rajbansie also took issue with the online comments – which are often called “blogs” in this territory – posted anonymously below that story and others VINO published about his departure from office.

“These scurrilous ad hominem attacks have remained on the World Wide Web, and uninformed craven bloggers have been allowed to hide behind anonymity while making defamatory remarks,” he stated.

When asked if there were any specific comments he found to be defamatory, Mr. Rajbansie said that he’d “prefer not to repeat them or go searching through those articles for them. It was very distasteful when published, and presently I don’t wish to relive them.”

However, the former DPP did not rule out taking personal legal action against VINO for those allegedly defamatory remarks.

“I’m considering all my options at this time,” he said.

This reporter sent Mr. Rajbansie’s statements about VINO to the news site’s owner, Julian Willock, seeking a response from him.

In turn, Mr. Willock sent the following statement: “We have not seen any statement from the former DPP. However, our stories are known for their accuracy.”

Mr. Willock did not comment further.

History

The contentious relationship between Mr. Rajbansie and VINO goes back to at least August 2014, when he took VINO and Mr. Willock to court over an article the DPP said could have prejudiced the jury in a murder trial involving Marcus Lloyd, Wakeem Guishard and Mitch Christopher (the three were found not guilty in May).

According to court documents, Mr. Rajbansie sought an order to have the article removed until the case was finalised because it allegedly linked to audio excerpts of an interview police conducted with Mr. Lloyd, where the then-defendant declared his innocence.

“The content article… is not journalist, literary or artistic material, and as such same is not constitutionally protected,” the DPP stated in the claim. “And, further, in the case of all the accused persons, [the article] negatively affects their rights to a fair hearing involving an independent and impartial judicial process.”

Court documents show that High Court Justice Vicki Ann Ellis found in favour of the DPP in Dec. 2014, ordering VINO to remove the article and to cease publishing anything connected with the case until the final determination of the criminal proceedings.

Court documents also show that VINO may not have heeded Ms. Ellis’ directions, as a penal notice was filed by the justice in April over the same matter – Messrs. Lloyd, Guishard and Christopher were facing a retrial that month after jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision in their initial trial in March 2015.

The penal notice ordered VINO to remove a different article it published on April 5 titled “Jury empanelled of retrial of ‘Tiger Hodge’ murder accused trio,” and threatened Mr. Willock with imprisonment or asset seizure if his site did not comply.

“After the first injunction was granted the offending article was removed. I think there was another article published just about the time the retrial was set to begin, and that triggered the second filing,” Mr. Rajbansie said of the issue.

Online comments

VINO and Mr. Rajbansie would also interact in court on July 24, 2015, when the news site and five other media outlets, including this newspaper, were summoned to court via an order that described them as “defendants” (High Court Justice Nicola Byer would say at the hearing that the Beacon was not, in fact, a defendant, and that the hearing was an “informal” one to remind journalists of their duty to report responsibly).

While six news organisations were summoned to the hearing, Mr. Rajbansie and Ms. Byer singled out BVI News and VINO for allegedly violating a 2014 court order by hosting online comments about ongoing trials.

At that hearing, Mr. Rajbansie took issue with a VINO comment that he said described a recent court proceeding as a waste of time.

“Believe me when I say that we are not about wasting time,” he said. “But if the public does not understand that from your reporting, it’s easy to leap and make this determination that the court is wasting time when it is the furthest thing from the truth.”

The then-DPP later issued a strong warning against hosting comments during legal proceedings.

“Let me say to all of you, and to VINO in particular, when I issue a threat it will be carried out,” he said.

A week after that hearing, VINO published an article calling Mr. Rajbansie’s statement against a “reckless attack,” and asking, “Why is he picking on Willock?”

The news site also mentioned the July 2015 hearing in its subsequent reports on Mr. Rajbansie leaving office, referring to his actions as an “abuse of power” and a “low point for Mr. Rajbansie and his office.”

Track record

While tensions between Mr. Rajbansie and VINO have been aired in public reports, those between the former DPP and Ms. Richards have not – until last month, when the senior magistrate lamented that she rarely saw him in court.

“I can count on my one hand the number of occasions I saw [current DPP Kim Hollis’] predecessor, so I hope to see her very often,” Ms. Richards said during last month’s ceremony to mark the beginning of the new law year.

In turn, Mr. Rajbansie referred to the senior magistrate’s comment as “injudicious” and “myopic,” adding that the cases he dealt with were mostly heard in other legal arenas such as the High Court, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal, and the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The former DPP included in his statement a list of cases he litigated during his tenure. The list included 12 cases, seven of which stem from the matter of former legislator and convicted sex offender Andre Penn. Mr. Penn has filed multiple challenges over the last several years against his convictions for a bevy of sexual crimes he allegedly committed against a minor from 2006 to 2008.

“The list is not exhaustive,” added Mr. Rajbansie.

 

WAYNE RAJBANSIE’S FULL STATEMENT:

In the recent past reports were published by the local media house, Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) which were inaccurate, misinformed and designed to injure my reputation. These scurrilous ad hominem attacks have remained on the world wide web and uninformed craven bloggers have been allowed to hide behind anonymity while making defamatory remarks. Permit me therefore to respond to these critics on some of the matters and relieve them of their ignorance.

1. My second contact of employment covered the period 15th August 2014 to 15th August 2016. It was my decision not to seek a renewal of the
contract. According to the terms of the contract the Government was to be informed three months in advance of my intention to either seek a renewal or not. On the 15th March 2016, some five months prior to the termination of the contract, I informed the Department of Human Resources, in writing, that I will not seek a further renewal. In April 2016 the post was duly advertised. The veiled suggestion that the Government did not want to
renew the contract is a spurious claim. 

2. It is unfortunate that a judicial officer could make the injudicious statements reported to have been made at the ceremonial opening of the law term 2016/2017. These remarks serve only to bring that Office and the administration of justice into disrepute. The comments were myopic and did not take into account the more complex matters prosecuted before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, The Court of Appeal and the High Court. Reference is made to some of the following matters, in which written judgments were delivered as well as those that were unreported:

In the Privy Council

1. Deshawn Stoutt v Q (Murder) [2014] UKPC 142. Andrew Milton and Dennis Campbell v Q (Murder) [2015] UKPC 423. Franklyn Huggins v Q (sexual intercourse with a minor) JCPC 2013/ 00984. Andre Penn v Q JCPC 2015/ 0001

In the Court of Appeal

1. Andre Penn v Q No 6 of 20132. Andre Penn v Q No 7 of 20133. Andre Penn v Q No 2016/0006 (Pending decision on conviction)4. Q v Andre Penn No 2 of 2015 (Crown appeal against Sentence pending decision)

High Court

1. Andre Penn v AG and DPP (Constitutional Matter) Claim No 166B of 2013

2. Q v Andre Penn HCA 31 of 2009 There are three additional judgments in the High Court by different Corams with the same citation.

3. Deshawn Stoutt Cr. Case No 2 of 2008 and Devin Maduro Cr. Case No 1 of 2007  First re-sentencing hearings under the Parole Act. 

4. Q v Lloyd et al BVIHC 15 of 2014The list is not exhaustive.

3. Over the four years of my administration, Annual Reports were prepared and duly laid before the House of Assembly. Any one with a real interest in the development of the ODPP would do well to familiarize themselves with these reports. The stride in Case Flow Management with the acquisition of a new case management software stands head and shoulders above the failing “case storage software” being utilized elsewhere. The training of staff is explicity documented in the Reports. The collaboration with criminal justice stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, Social Development and Gender Affairs led to the development and signing of the National Domestic Violence Protocol and the Protocol for the prevention, reporting, investigation, and management of child abuse and neglect and the subsequent establishment of the Child Abuse InvestigativeTeam. With the RVIPF there was the introduction of a guidance Bail Policy and the manual of guidance for case file preparation. With the MInistry of Education the Summer Intern Programme saw approximately 20 student from law school graduates to 4th Formers being mentored during the summer vacation in Chambers. Many went on to serve the compulsory community service in Chambers. The Operation Lucan investigation of which I was appointed jointly as Gold Commander took 20 months of investigation and legal advise before complaints were proferred. This matter is now sub judicie. All other achievements and challenges are fully documented in the Annual Reports 2012 to 2015.

4. Comments were made on the failure to institute succession planning in the ODPP. In the four years of my administration all members were given
wide exposure to domestic and foreign training, supervision, management and budget training and at times the experience of acting in the post of
DPP. The advertisement for the post of DPP was circulated regionally and internationally. There were suitable members of staff who met the minimum
standards for appointment and they were implored by me to apply for the post. The appointment to the post is made by a recommendation from the
independent Judicial and Legal Services Commission, chaired by the Hon. Chief Justice sitting with a panel, to His Excellency The Governor. The
failure to appoint a person from within the ODPP has little to do with succession planning for the Department. The appointment is not automatic.
The question why a member of the ODPP was not appointed to the post can only be answered by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission and the Governor.

5. Finally, I was invited recently to assist the Ministry of Health, Social Development and Gender Affairs in preparing the preliminary
drafting instructions and draft policy framework for the management of sexual offence matters for the territory. In 2015 a working committee was
established to begin the review of the sexual offence legislation with a view to creating a new Sexual Offences Act and ODPP was an integral member
of the committee. The vision of the Hon. Minister Mr. R. Skelton and his Permanent Secretary Mrs. P Davies to give effect to the Virgin Islands
National Policy for Gender Equity and Equality [2011] and have a new Sexual Offences Act should be applauded. I have contributed extensively to
the work of this committee over the past 16 months and unhesitatingly accepted the offer to see this project to completion.

To those who have offered their support and encouragement, both in my former incarnation and now I express my gratitude. To my detractors thanks for the motivation. Please acquit yourselves with the knowledge and truth and be guided accordingly.

Respectfully, 
Wayne L Rajbansie Attorney at Law.

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