AG’s behaviour in Court was “insulting, disrespectful… contemptuous”- Justice Holder
Letter from Justice Franklin Holder to the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards
The Honourable Chancellor (ag.)
Madam Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, CCH.
The High Court of the Supreme Court,
Dear Madam Chancellor
RE: REPORT ON CONTEMPTUOUS BEHAVIOUR OF MR BASIL WILLIAMS SC.
I would like to report an incident which occurred on the 23rd day of March, 2017, in the matter of the Application by Carvil Duncan, during the cross-examination of a witness by Mr Basil Williams, SC.
The Attorneys-at-Law in court at the time, including Mr Williams, were Ms Sam and Ms Stuart who were with him, and Mr Nandlall and Mr Jaigobin who appeared for the applicant.
During the cross-examination of the witness, Mr Williams had asked a question, the answer to which I initially recorded as “yes”. However, because of what the witness said immediately after and Mr Williams’ desire to cross-examine her on a document which she had prepared and for which he was making application to have admitted into evidence, I crossed out the answer “yes”.
Further into his cross-examination Mr Williams made certain statements which suggested that it was his belief, that the witness had said “yes”, and that this was the record of the Court. On recognising Mr Williams’ misconception of this part of the evidence, I then read aloud the record of the court in this regard. I further offered that he may ask the witness the question again if he so desired, since the record showed that there was no answer to the question. Mr Williams did not do so.
However, he proceeded to ask other questions of the witness, the answer to one of which, the witness said “no”. Upon the witness saying this, Mr. Williams, in a rather loud and bellicose tone said that I, the judge, must record “no” (in my Minute Book). I then said to him that a record is being made that the witness did say “no”. Apparently, not being satisfied with my assurance, Mr Williams followed up with words to the effect, that previously the witness had said yes and the court chose not to make a record of this. I then told Mr Williams that I took umbrage to his tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect, that the Court was being selective in recording the evidence.
Mr Williams, in a truculent manner, while standing in the well of the court, responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say, was a Magistrate and he is now dead. He further said that “all morning Mr Nandlall disrespecting you, and you have not done anything about it.” This was, however, not a true statement of what had occurred. This was followed by a most egregious statement by Mr Williams, that “I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it, I have always been like that.”
Immediately after hearing these words, I rose from the Bench and went into my Chambers. I did not adjourn the matter, nor did I give any instructions to the parties.
I recognise Mr Williams’ behaviour as I have related to be insulting, disrespectful, and calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court in the face of the Court.
Mr Williams’ behaviour was highly contemptuous and deserving of him being cited for contempt in the face of the Court. Instead of doing so at that moment, I chose to leave the Bench.
However, it does not mean that Mr Williams’ behaviour should go unattended. He is not only a Senior Counsel, he is also the Attorney General and leader of the Bar. His behaviour begs the question, whether he is respectful and aware of the functions and duties that attend these offices.
I am not prepared to sit to hear Mr Williams as an Attorney-at-Law in any matter whatsoever, unless he makes a genuine and meaningful apology to my satisfaction, in open Court, both to me and to the Members of the Bar, since they too were scandalized by his despicable conduct.