BREAKING: Court orders release of SOPs to Police and DPP to pursue criminal charges against Lowenfield & others
By Kurt Campbell
Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, SC, on Thursday, ordered the release of Statements of Poll (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) to the Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who are seeking the documents to bolster their criminal case against the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield and others who have been charged with fraud in connection with last year’s general and regional elections.
In her ruling, the Chief Justice also denied an application by Lowenfield to intervene in the case; he was seeking the block release of the certified copies of the SOPs and the SORs.
In denying the application to intervene, the Chief Justice said Lowenfield has failed to prove that, among other things, he can make a useful contribution to the case without injustice to the other parties.
“For the Court to allow the CEO to become a party… would have the effect of complicating these legal proceeding unnecessarily,” she said.
Justice George said Lowenfield did not demonstrate how he would be adversely affected by the granting of orders to utilise the documents for criminal proceedings.
Lowenfield is currently before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court charged with misconduct in public office in relation to electoral fraud. But the CJ said she does not believe any release of the document will adversely affect Lowenfield. She said he does not stand to “gain nor lose”.
The Police Commissioner (ag), Nigel Hoppie and the DPP, Shalimar Ali-Hack, had asked the Chief Justice to grant an Order, instructing the Registrar of the High Court, Sueanna Lovell, to make photocopies of the SOPs and SORs in her possession.
The Registrar is also being asked to certify that it is the true copies of the originals.
There are a total of 2, 339 SOPs and another 2, 339 SORs. It was the Chief Justice who, in a January 2021 ruling, ordered that the SOPs and SORs be handed over to the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
The CEO was directed by a court order on January 8, 2021, to deliver the documents to the Supreme Court for safe custody.
The Chief Justice said that while Lowenfield has argued that he is the legal custodian of the documents, he cannot prevent a court from ordering the release of the documents, which as it is, is no longer in his physical possession.
Justice George said that while Lowenfield is the legal custodian, he is so as an agent of GECOM.
The Chief Justice said even if the documents were not in the possession of the High Court, a Magistrate could have easily ordered the release of the documents without entertaining Lowenfield.
She explained that any refusal by him could have easily seen a warrant being issued at the level of the Magistrates’ Court for the SOPs and SORs.
Darshan Ramdani, the attorney who filed the substantive application to the High Court, said the efforts by the Chief Elections Officer to prevent the release of the documents is meritless and asked the Chief Justice to institute cost against Lowenfield and his attorney, Nigel Hughes.
Ramdani is representing the Commissioner of Police and the DPP.
Following an explanation by Hughes, the Chief Justice ruled that no costs would be awarded.
Among those currently before the court are Lowenfield, the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers and the Returning Officer for District Four Clairmont Mingo.
They are joined on several charges by the Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Volda Lawrence and other party members. Having only served one term in office, the APNU+AFC Coalition lost the elections and claimed widespread voter fraud at the polls but refused to release their copies of the SOPs to prove its claim that it had won the elections.
The GECOM SOPs are key to settling the issues that arose after the March 2 general and regional elections.
(This story was updated)