High Court paves way for electoral fraud charges to go ahead in Magistrates’ Court

Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2024, 21:07 by Writer

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Friday ruled that the constitutional rights of then Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield and his Deputy Roxanne Myers to a fair trial would not be violated because the Representation of the People Act prohibits disclosure of meetings of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

As a result of the dismissal of the case, according to Attorney General Anil Nandlall, the said the Magistrates’ Court could now go ahead with hearing and determine the 28 criminal charges of attempting to commit fraud at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.

“Significantly, this ruling now paves the way for the Magistrate to proceed with the criminal charges,” he said in a statement.

The High Court ordered Mr Lowenfield and Ms Myers to pay the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions GY$200,000 each to the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Chairman of GECOM, James Patterson, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers. (File photo)

The former GECOM officials had alleged that Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act breached their right to a fair trial, as guaranteed by Article 144, and their right to equality before the law, as guaranteed by Article 149 (D) of the Constitution, regarding certain criminal proceedings pending against them in the Magistrates’ Court.

The AG said their lawyers objected in the Magistrates’ Court on the grounds that Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act breached their constitutional rights. That section states that “No evidence of any deliberations of the Elections Commission or communications between members of the Commission regarding its business shall be admissible in any court.”

Lowenfield and Myers said that they needed the deliberations or communications of GECOM as part of the facilities for the preparation of their defence in the criminal proceedings. As a result, they made an application for the criminal cases to be adjourned while they filed the constitutional challenge in the High Court.

In dismissing the case, the Attorney General said the Court agreed with the submissions of himself, the Director of Public Prosecutions and GECOM. Mr Nandlall related that the Court stated that Lowenfield and Myers were on a fishing expedition and “cast their net too wide.” The
Court found no evidence that their constitutional rights were likely to be infringed.

“The Court also found that the public interest in ensuring that GECOM’s deliberations remain confidential overrides whatever constitutional rights Lowenfield and Myers enjoy. Finally, the Court ruled that there was no ground established that shows that Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act breached any provisions of the Constitution,” he said.

The Attorney General appeared in person along with Shoshanna Lall, Assistant Solicitor General; Loretta Noel, Senior Legal Adviser and Pierre Squires, State Counsel. The Applicants were represented by Nigel Hughes and Iyanna Butts.

The DPP was represented by Darshan Ramdhani, KC, and GECOM was represented by Kurt DaSilva.