No charges for Finance Minister, DPP advises

-after couple injured in accident drop complaints

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh will not face charges for the accident he was involved in on Republic night, which saw two persons injured, the police force announced yesterday.

“In relation to the vehicular accident involving the Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, the Guyana Police Force is informing the general public that legal advice has been obtained from the Director of Public Prosecutions that no charge be instituted since the affected parties, Jaggernauth Hira and Parbattie Shivcharran, have stated that they no longer wish to pursue the matter,” the force said in a release issued yesterday afternoon.

The police press release makes it clear that the police have decided against any formal charge because the affected parties stated they did not wish to pursue the matter any longer. After multiple negotiations with Singh’s legal counsel, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Hira and Shivcharran were compensated and signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Dr Ashni Singh
Dr Ashni Singh

Previously, the head of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) Ronald Burch-Smith had stated that when compensation is offered to the injured parties there may be an expectation that those parties would forego a prosecution. He had explained that while there was nothing wrong with the injured parties receiving compensation, the legal line did become blurred if there was an expectation that the court aspect of the case would be dissolved.

“The danger is generally that when somebody is offering compensation before the matter reaches to court or while it is in court very often they have an expectation that as a result of that compensation the injured party will forego a prosecution,” Burch-Smith said. He added that if a settlement was reached, this did not rule out the bringing of criminal charges if an investigation was to warrant any.

The police had handled the investigation in accordance with a “long-standing tradition” that all cases involving high ranking government officials would be sent to the DPP for review before the police would pronounce on the matter. Up to May 12th, Stabroek News was told by a senior police official that the case file was yet to be looked at by the relevant sources, after being returned by the DPP more than a month prior.

The length of time the police took to complete the investigation raised many eyebrows, with critics arguing there was a definitive lag in coming to a conclusion because a member of government was involved. Critics noted that on multiple occasions circumstance surrounding the matter were never pronounced upon, such as why the minister was never administered a breathalyzer test although the two injured parties reported that he was allegedly under the influence.

Burch-Smith said the way in which the police have chosen to pursue the investigation gave rise to a bigger issue, arguing that citizens would show a lack of respect for the law because “people of influence are not held accountable when they break the law.”

He criticised the police for the lax handling of the investigation, stating that in some instances after a car accident and in cases where it was suspected that the driver may have been under the influence, the police would have already investigated and persons could appear before a magistrate the following day.

On Republic night, Singh was involved in an accident which left the driver of the other car, Hira, and his passenger, Shivcharran, slightly injured.

“I was coming down this street [west on Garnett Street, Campbellville] and this vehicle was coming out of this road [Delph Avenue] and just jump the major road, slam into me sending we into that gutter…. The man come out then we see is the finance minister but he ain’t even offer help. He just jump into another vehicle and drive off leaving we hay…,” Hira had told Stabroek News at the scene.

Nandlall, in a statement on February 27, said, “At or about 21:00 hrs on 23 February, 2014 at the junction of Garnett and Delph Streets, Campbellville, Greater Georgetown, the Honourable Minister of Finance was involved in a vehicular collision with a motor car.

“The Minister was taken to a city hospital for medical attention shortly after the accident. An associate of the Minister facilitated the driver of the vehicle and the lone passenger to be taken to a city hospital for medical treatment. The matter was duly reported to the police and is being investigated.

“Without prejudice to the rights of all the parties to seek legal recourse, the Attorney General met with the driver, the owner of the vehicle and the passenger with a view of exploring the possibility of bringing the matter to an amicable end.”

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