The charges are expected to be served on Mc Nicolls shortly after he delivers a ruling in the five-year-long Piarco I preliminary inquiry due on July 9. The disciplinary charges will allege Mc Nicolls brought the administration of justice into disrepute. When the Commission completes the drafting exercise, Mc Nicolls will be notified and given an opportunity to respond.
Sources said the decision to proceed with the charges was taken at a meeting of the JLSC on Tuesday. If the Chief Magistrate denies the charges, the Commission will move to appoint a Disciplinary Tribunal to investigate the matter and produce a final report, recommending what action, if any, is to be taken against Mc Nicolls.
However, in the event Mc Nicolls admits wrongdoing, it will be within the discretion of the Commission to impose an appropriate penalty ranging from suspension to dismissal.
The JLSC is the body constitutionally responsible for appointments, removal and exercise of disciplinary control over judicial officers.
The Commission, comprising acting Chairman Selby Wooding QC, retired Court of Appeal judges Lionel Jones, Jean Permanand and the head of the Police Service Commission Christopher Thomas, met at about 2.15 pm on Tuesday at the Hall of Justice to again discuss the issue of Mc Nicolls’ conduct.
The matter was first considered at a JLSC meeting in April which had before it a report by Justice Sebastian Ventour who concluded the Chief Magistrate may have compromised the rule of law and administration of justice by refusing to be cross-examined in the criminal inquiry against Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma. This refusal caused the case against Sharma to collapse.
Newsday understands the decision to draft charges was taken on Tuesday in the face of the possible replacement of Thomas from the JLSC on June 30 – the date his tenure expires and will come up for renewal by the President.
June 30 will be three years since Thomas was appointed after assuming the post of the head of the Police Service Commission. Under the Constitution his office becomes vacant every three to five years.
The decision was therefore taken to avoid the need to have the JLSC go over again its deliberation on the Mc Nicolls issue if a new member is appointed. Vice-President of the Law Association, Hendrickson Seunath SC, yesterday questioned why the DPP had not yet taken a decision in the matter, saying Mc Nicolls could potentially be charged with wasting police time.
A legal source questioned the role Mc Nicolls will have to play in the upcoming Tribunal against Sharma, saying his credibility, already affected by his refusal to be cross-examined, will be now brought even more clearly into focus.
Israel Khan SC, who has been retained to represent Mc Nicolls’ interests in the upcoming Tribunal against Sharma, yesterday said he had not received word of the decision to bring disciplinary charges against Mc Nicolls.
Sharma, when asked to comment on the decision to bring disciplinary charges against Mc Nicolls said, “That’s a matter for the Commission” and added, “the man (who) is my main accuser has been charged and that will seriously undermine his credibility.”