National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says no one is surprised at the DPP’s decision not to charge Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama after he allegedly physically manhandled, swore at and threatened former NFP President and MP Pio Tikoduadua on August 9th.
Professor Prasad says the DPP had said that there was sufficient evidence to charge the Prime Minister for assault, but Prasad says the DPP should know that what was done in Parliament did not alter his duty to lay charges.
He says the DPP has issued a six-paragraph statement saying why he will not prosecute adding the DPP should issue his full legal opinion so the public can judge for themselves.
The NFP leader says if the DPP is right, then someone who punches his workmate and is disciplined by his superiors can no longer be prosecuted for assault – because that would be “double jeopardy”.
Professor Prasad says the legal issues are not complicated. He says the well-known English textbook on Parliamentary procedure is called Erskine May adding Paragraph 11.18 is headed Proceedings, precincts and criminal acts.
He says the first line says that Parliament’s control over its own process “do[es] not extend to the criminal law”. It talks about cases where MPs in other countries have been charged in the criminal courts adding if the DPP thinks differently, he should tell the public why.
Professor Prasad further states Parliament may have a special process for what happens there, but it is just like any other workplace and if a complaint of assault is reported, that is for the Police to investigate and the Courts to decide.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde has decided that no charges will be laid against Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama in relation to allegations that he assaulted a Member of Parliament, Pio Tikoduadua in the parliamentary precincts on 9th August this year.
Pryde says under section 73 of the Constitution, Parliament has the power to discipline members of Parliament. He says those powers are further particularised under the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1965 which provides for the prosecution of offences such as assault committed by one member against another member.
Pryde says under section 20 of that Act, a person found guilty by Parliament for the offence of assault is liable to a fine of $400 or to imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or both.
He says as the altercation occurred within the precincts of Parliament, the Speaker exercised his authority and referred the matter to the Privileges Committee to hear evidence of the matter and to make findings on the allegation.
The DPP says those findings were accepted by Parliament which then endorsed and implemented a penalty.
Pryde says the constitutional separation of powers doctrine applies to prevent the courts and the executive from interfering with a decision made by Parliament in the exercise of its constitutional authority.
He says, therefore, as the matter has now been dealt with by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee and those findings and recommendations have been accepted by Parliament, it would not be in the public interest for a second hearing to take place before the judiciary in the criminal courts.
Pryde says this would, in effect, be subjecting the Prime Minister to double jeopardy contrary to section 14 (1) (b) of the Constitution after his matter has already been adjudicated on by the Privileges Committee and a decision made by Parliament after hearing the evidence from witnesses.
The DPP says had the matter not been heard by the Privileges Committee and dealt with by Parliament, there was sufficient evidence for the matter to proceed to court.
Pryde says for these reasons, there will be no further action on this file and the matter is now closed.
The police docket has been returned to the police.ADVERTISEMENT Listen to the latest news on our 5 radio stations Legend FM, Viti FM, Radio Sargam, FM96 and Navtarang.