Last Updated on Monday, 26 June 2023, 14:15 by Denis Chabrol
Well-known Guyanese lawyer Nigel Hughes on Monday defended his decision to defend People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government minister, Nigel Dharamlall in a rape allegation by a 16-year old schoolgirl, arguing that his priority is to ensure that the system works fairly for the complainant and the accused.
“We have to ensure first of all you protect the person who has made the allegation, the victim. She needs to be protected. We need to make sure that there is a full investigation so whatever the outcome of the deliberations by the DPP or the charges, that everybody is happy with them and we don’t feel that somebody has had an unfair advantage,” Mr Hughes said on a Facebook Live broadcast by PNCR member Simona Broomes.
He promised that his protests and representation in the future would not change. He emphasised that the “best thing for the system” is to ensure that it works for the benefit of the victim and an outcome that everyone respects. “The last thing is you don’t want to end up with a result that people attack the process and there are doubts about it,” he said.
Even as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers was considering the case file sent by police investigators for advice on whether Mr Dharamlall should be charged and for what offence, a group of supporters of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) turned up outside his office and demanded that he and his law firm, Hughes Fields and Stoby, cease representing the politician. Through Mr Hughes, Mr Dharamlall has denied all accusations.
Simona Broomes, a former minister in the coalition administration, and former PNCR executive member Lurlene Nestor were vociferous in their demands of Mr Hughes. “We are out here as women and as mothers and we are appealing to you; you have your firm. Please tell your partners, let Dharamlall go. We don’t want you to be in this matter,” she said. Mr Broomes said she and her colleagues were not happy although they knew that it was his law firm and his money. “Let get a next lawyer. He is entitled to a lawyer but all we are saying not you. You is we own piece of lawyer. We ain’t want you represent he. We might need for you to represent the girl,” she said.
Ms Nestor told Mr Hughes that she believed that Mr Dharamlall hired him for political reasons “because they think we will be quiet.” She said she and her colleagues did not approve him taking the case out of respect for most of the people who respect him. “We respect you and we think that you will take our feelings into consideration and not accept it,” she added.
He promised to take their concerns into account.
Mr Hughes, however, reminded the activists that HFS has had a history of representing everyone including the Lusignan massacre accused who had ben freed by a jury. Highlighting that he has represented Guyanese regardless of their backgrounds, he stressed that the system could not be affected by whether or not he represents someone.
The lawyer said the Local Government Minister, who is on leave and on GY$1 million station bail, must be presumed innocent but his position was swiftly rebuffed. “The last thing you want is for a man to be wrongfully charged or wrongfully convicted. I am not here to defend Mr Dharamlall’s politics,” he said. Mr Hughes said the law firm accepted his retainer “at the time” because it does not consider politics and other factors and Monday’s protest would be taken into account.
Dating back to 2018, Mr Dharamlall had on a number of occasions castigated Mr Hughes for publicly stating that the Bharrat Jagdeo-sponsored no-confidence motion had not been passed by a parliamentary majority. Mr Hughes is also known for his strong advocacy for the rights of Afro-Guyanese. He recently represented the non-governmental International Decade for People of African Descent Guyana (IDPADA-G) at the United Nations.