EMINENT attorney Frank Phipps, QC, is contending that the Extradition and Interception of Communication Acts are void because they were not passed with the two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament as stipulated by the constitution for laws that effect the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Both acts have been featured recently in two high-profile cases, namely the extradition saga of former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, and convicted Matthews Lane don Donald ‘Zeeks’ Phipps, who is now serving a life sentence for the murder of two men in downtown Kingston. The former strongman recently lost his appeal and is in the process of petitioning the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.
QC Phipps was the lawyer for Phipps, in whose case the Interception of Communication Act of 2002 played a key role, leading to his conviction in 2006.
Coke, meantime, was extradited to the US where he now awaits trial on drug-trafficking and gun-running charges. His extradition was fraught with controversy and at one point the Jamaica Labour Party Government had challenged the extradition act before backing down under mounting pressure.
On Thursday night, Phipps, who was guest lecturer at the University of Technology’s Faculty of Law, said that Section 50 of the Jamaican Constitution did not authorise the passing of these acts by a simple majority vote. “Both are therefore void,” said Phipps, adding that the courts were wrong in upholding these laws.
He said the Extradition Act of 1991 suspended the protection for immunity from expulsion that is protected at Section 16 of the Jamaica Constitution. Phipps was, however, quick to point out that he was not necessarily against such an act but that his issue was with the manner in which it was passed — without the required two-third majority vote of both Houses of Parliament.
According to Phipps there were an assortment of post-1962 legislation passed by a simple majority vote to deal with the “scourge of violent crime and the curse of trafficking in drugs” and questioned whether those laws are also inconsistent with the constitution and are, therefore,void.
For that matter, Phipps singled out the 1995 amendment to the Evidence Act, which allows at Section 31D, the admissibility of first-hand hearsay statements in criminal proceedings in certain circumstances, including where the witness cannot be found, and the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2005 which allows for the forfeiture of property after a criminal conviction in contravention of Section 18 of the constitution that guarantees the protection of property.
In relation to the Evidence Act, Phipps said: “This amounts to a paper trial that denies the right for an accused to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, which is guaranteed at Section 20 (6) (d) of the Constitution.”
He said also that the long-overdue Charter of Rights would not do much in protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens, as it will seek to repeal section 50 of the constitution, which calls for the two-third majority vote of each Houses of Parliament in order to pass any law that is inconsistent with the constitution.
“I challenge all lawyers to get involved in national issues; as such, extend your services beyond the boundaries of merely working for remuneration but rather work to ensure your own security by promoting the security for others who are at risk,” Phipps charged.