By: Anthony W Astaphan, SC
Dated the 23rd February 2017
An open letter to Mr Clement Joseph, Attorney at law (formerly in the Office of DPP)
I just read Mr Clement Joseph’s response to His Excellency the President. In view of the fact that Mr Clement Joseph who was at one time an attorney at the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions I paid special attention to what he wrote. Mr. Joseph’s assertion that the UWP did not, and does not require, permission under the Public Order Act to hold meetings may sound attractive to the people of this land with no knowledge of the facts or law. His assertion is however misleading. There ought to be no question that a public or other meeting or event cannot be held on any public road or highway without permission from the Commissioner. Consequently, whether permission is required or not depends on the facts and location of the meeting.
The facts are
i. The meeting was planned as a meeting close to the Financial Centre on Kennedy Avenue, a public and not private road;
ii. The UWP intended to park a truck in the middle of the public road for the purposes of the meeting;
iii. The UWP in fact applied for permission to use a public road in order to hold its meeting. No person, politician, company or party can block , hinder or interfere with the free flow of traffic on any public road without the permission of the Commissioner of Police. The UWP asked to use the road for the meeting between 12.00 pm to 6.00 pm;
iv. As a result of the UWP’s application the Commissioner called in representatives of the UWP and DFP to discuss the conditions under which he was prepared to allow the use of the public road for the meeting. It was agreed that the use of the public road would be limited to the hours of 11.00 am and 3.00 pm;
v. The Commissioner gave permission to use the public road on other conditions including the direction of the traffic and people;
vi. The top of the road was blocked of and the truck parked in the middle of the road for the purposes of the meeting.
Quite apart from the Acts of Parliament governing traffic and the use of public roads, it is an offence at common law to obstruct any public road or highway unless permission is granted by the Commissioner of Police. In other words, any public meeting or event on any public road or highway constitutes an offence at law. Accordingly, any person who organizes or holds any meeting on a public road commits an offence unless he was given permission by the Commissioner.
In the circumstances, it seems clear to me that the President’s meaning was clear, permission was required and given to hold a meeting on a public road. Had the meeting been held on private property without any interference with a public road or highway, no permission would have been required. Mr Clement Joseph, an attorney (formerly in the Office of the DPP) seems unaware of the facts and law. But perhaps more importantly is the political and legal implications of Mr Joseph’s message. His position appears to be that any person can block a public road to hold any event. Alternatively, his position is that a political leader or his party’s representatives can apply to the Commissioner for permission to hold a meeting on a public road; agree to the conditions of the meetings; hold the meeting as agreed; and on the date of the meeting can ridicule the Commissioner, and taunt the Police of Police notwithstanding the good faith of the Commissioner. If either is truly his position or message, it is a very troubling one coming especially from an attorney at law who once worked in the Office of the DPP. Mr. Joseph’s position can only lead to anarachy and disregard for the rule of law.