In an interview with Newsday, Volney, a former high court judge who resigned his post as a criminal court judge in order to contest the May 24, 2010 elections, said he declined to apply for silk because he did not think it appropriate to deny other applicants the chance to get silk. Volney, as a former judge, is barred from serving as a lawyer for ten years after the date of his resignation, or until 2020.
“I was asked to apply,” Volney said. “I declined. I did not think that as a former judge I should apply. I did not want to displace anyone who would have been in a position to practise in the courts. As a former judge I would not practise for ten years. It would make no sense if I got Silk and prevented someone else from getting it.”
Of the decision taken by Chief Justice Archie and Justice of Appeal Wendell Kangaloo to return silk, Volney said the decision was “very honourable.” However, he added, “I thought they should have kept it. It was a recognition of excellence.” Volney said had he been bestowed Silk he would have been very reluctant to refuse it as it would have been “vulgar” to refuse President George Maxwell-Richards, who bestows the honour on the advice of the Prime Minister (who gets a list from the Attorney General).
Yesterday Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, who did not apply for Silk but was given it last month, yesterday stayed clear of making any comments over the question of whether or not he should return the title.
Asked by Newsday if he would return the title which was bestowed on him by President George Maxwell-Richards, on the advice of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Gaspard said, “no comment.”
Asked if he would seek legal advice as to the appropriateness of him taking Silk while holding the post of DPP, Gaspard said, “no comment.”
Asked if he would issue a statement at any time in the future, Gaspard said, “no comment.” Some have pointed out that the office of the DPP, under the Constitution, must be independent and have queried whether Gaspard’s acceptance of Silk could put his office in danger.
However, former chief justice Satnarine Sharma yesterday argued that there is no need for Gaspard to return Silk.
He argued that the DPP — the State’s Chief Prosecutor — is not in the same position as a judge who has certain powers and who must appear to be impartial.
“There has been no question over whether or not a DPP can get Silk,” Sharma said. “A DPP does not have to adjudicate. If he makes a decision that is wrong, it can be corrected by a judge. The DPP is not part of the separation of powers.”
Of the decision of the Chief Justice to return Silk, Sharma said, “I think that they have done the right thing and we should be proud of them.”
He said the return of Silk prevented the situation from escalating and as such, there is no need to call on the judges to resign.
“It happened so quickly, had it lingered then they would have been open to calls to resign. But on these facts I do not think the issue went so far as to make that call now,” Sharma said.