NNP clearing the way for Ewart Layne to practice as a lawyer

The evidence is mounting against current Acting Attorney-General, Dr. Lawrence Joseph for his apparent support to the hardline faction of the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) that played a major role in the 1983 execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and half his Cabinet.

A well-placed source told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that Dr. Joseph featured prominently in the decision that was taken during the 2003-08 period in government of the New National Party (NNP) to allow convicted Bishop murderer, Phyllis Coard to leave the island for Jamaica to receive medical treatment for what was then said to be colon cancer.

He said that Dr. Joseph who held the post of Attorney-General back then had addressed the Cabinet of Ministers on the decision that was taken to allow the Jamaican-born Phyllis Coard to leave the island amidst an uproar by the population.

The source spoke of the principal legal advisor to government telling the Cabinet that Coard is being granted permission to go abroad for treatment for about seven months and then return to Grenada to serve the rest of the life sentence that was imposed on her for Bishop’s murder.

“The failure of Phyllis to come back is one thing that the government is yet to inform the people about. They have never offered the people any explanation on it”, he remarked.

Phyllis Coard is the wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard who is believed to have been the mastermind of the palace coup in which Bishop, Foreign Minister Unison Whiteman, Education Minister, Jacqueline Creft and Housing Minister Norris Bain were executed by a firing squad on Fort Rupert now back to its original name Fort George.

U.S and Caribbean troops entered Grenada on October 25, 1983 to topple the coup leaders and arrested the suspected murderers of Bishop including Coard and his wife, General Hudson Austin, former Mobilisation Minister, Selwyn Strahan, and Major Leon “Bogo” Cornwall who held the post at the time of Ambassador to Cuba.

The Coards’ along with fifteen other former government and military officials were eventually convicted for the murders in a high court trial that was presided over by just-retired President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Dennis Byron.

According to the source, there were serious reservations among several Cabinet Ministers including MP for St. Andrew South-west, Yolande Bain-Horsford now on the decision taken to allow Coard to leave the island for medical treatment.

Bain-Joseph is the daughter of Norris Bain who was executed along with Bishop and the others on the Top Square of the fort by a firing squad under the Command of Lieutenant Callistus “Iman Abdullah” Bernard.

During the Maurice Bishop murder trial, the team of State Prosecutors were able to convince the jury that the execution order was given to “Abdullah” shortly after a meeting of the NJM Central Committee on Fort Frederick moments after Bishop was released from house arrest at Mt. Wheldale by a large crowd of supporters.

The Bernard Coard faction had majority support on the critical issue of Joint leadership within the NJM which led to the bitter ideological internal feuding among moderates and hardliners in the party who favoured the “Democratic Centralism” principle as practised in the Soviet Union.

This group was opposed to Bishop’s style of leadership which was fashioned in keeping with the Cuban brand of communism in which the late leader, Fidel Castro was considered as the maximum leader.

Dr. Joseph is now at the centre of the NNP government’s decision not to block another convicted Bishop killer, ex-Lieutenant Colonel Ewart Layne from getting admitted to practice at the local bar.

He has reportedly conveyed a message to Layne’s lawyers in England that the Mitchell-led government will not contest the upcoming hearing in the Privy Council in London to hear an appeal from the former PRA Commander.

Apart from the murder conviction, Layne along with fellow convicted murderer, Lester “Goat” Redhead were also accused of an alleged act of torture against a political detainee under the 1979-83 left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).

The two allegedly used an instrument to slice the balls of an individual who is from the village of Tivoli in St. Andrew – a once dominant stronghold of late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy who was deposed from power on March 13. On May 14, 1984, Winston Simon, now deceased, had sent official correspondence to then Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon through member of the then ruling Interim Government, Christopher Williams detailing the vicious attack on him by Layne and Redhead.

Simon wrote: “Layne then took hold of my balls took a razor blade and began slicing them. While he was cutting me up Redhead was pouring pepper water on the cuts. Salt water was also poured on the cuts. Apart from cutting the balls the foreskin of the penis was cut and slight cuts on the penis were also made. Salt water and pepper water were poured on the penis.

“While this exercise was going on Randy Bobb was continually beating my head with the butt of his pistol. My head was busted in six or seven places as a result. There was much blood in the cell. They then put me outside the cell.”

A well-placed revolutionary source told this newspaper that Layne was “censored” by the party for this alleged act of torture levelled against him and that Bernard Coard played a major hand in helping to bring about the NJM internal disciplinary action against him.

“This is total madness. Headache must be asked to explain his role in this incident that he was accused of during the revo. This is a serious matter that should also be cleared up before anyone can be considered or much less be allowed to become a lawyer in this country”, he remarked.

“I am sure that Bernard (Coard) can be contacted for a comment on whether the party did not have to deal with him (Layne) on the allegation that was made against him as I know that matter was discussed within the party”, he said.

Layne has taken responsibility for despatching soldiers to Fort Rupert to recapture it after Bishop had gone there when he was freed from under house arrest by supporters.

He has consistently maintained that he never gave orders to anyone to execute Bishop and the captured ministers.

Female high court judge, Margaret Price-Findlay had delivered a ruling in 2014 against an application made by Layne to be admitted as a member of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) to facilitate him to practice law.

This week THE NEW TODAY continues with Part 11 of the decision handed down by the High Court judge which Layne is now appealing with apparent support from current Prime Minister Mitchell and his government:

The authorities show that the fact that the Applicant was acting under great stress at the time of commission of the crime in question does not excuse him.

The authorities further show that the relative youth of an Applicant at the time that the offences were committed does not excuse him. It is probably relevant in this case that despite his relative youth, the Applicant held a position of authority at the relevant time. It would be relevant to his character if the Court were to hold a view that this position was abused.

The Applicant’s undoubted achievements since his conviction can alternatively be regarded as evidence of rehabilitation or cast doubt on his character in that as a highly intelligent person, he should have been in a better position to evaluate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the relevant time.

Recommendations, glowing tributes (including academic accolades) and attempts to re-establish himself in society are all relevant considerations but will carry little weight in the Court’s considerations if the Court is of the view that the reputation of the profession as a whole would be adversely affected by the admission of the Applicant.

The fortunes of an Applicant must always give way to the need to maintain the collective reputation of the profession.

If the Court believes that it is probable that public confidence in and the reputation of the profession as a whole are likely to be affected by the admission, the Court has to determine the extent to which these are likely to be affected and weigh the personal factors in relation to the Applicant in this context.

The more probable that public confidence and reputation of the profession are likely to be gravely affected, the less weight should be given to the Applicant’s evidence of rehabilitation and other personal factors.”.

While I commend this Applicant for the efforts that he has made to rehabilitate himself in the some thirty years since the convictions for murder, I have to consider the preservation of the integrity of this profession.

The Court has to balance the previous misconduct as opposed to the evidence of rehabilitation.

In this matter the Court commends the efforts of the Applicant, his positive contributions while in prison to educate and inform his fellow inmates as well as his other contribution to prison life. The Court also commends his personal academic achievements.

The Applicant’s crimes here have been described as acts committed in political turmoil and in exceptional/political circumstances, and in the context of the Cold War.

But the Applicant was 25 years old at the time and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. In fact, he was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Army. This shows that he had a level of maturity and had even at that age displayed leadership qualities that lent themselves to him being given that heavy mantle of leadership, Commander of Armed Forces of Grenada.

To give the orders which he and others gave to “liquidate them”, and in circumstances in which they were given, a position away from the actual scene itself, portrays a lack of moral judgment on the part of the Applicant.

The onerous burden placed on this Applicant to show his suitability for the Bar is commensurate with the gravity of the crime for which he was convicted.

The crime of murder is the most serious known to the criminal law. It may attract the harshest penalty known to law – death. The Applicant here was convicted of ten counts of murder.

The point of admission is to select the persons who will handle the law with honesty and with competence, but also not to diminish the role and reputation of the legal profession.

The test which the Court has to apply is whether there is a potential risk to the public or, more importantly, whether there will be damage to the profession’s reputation.

The public must have confidence in the Bar, as admitting an Applicant to practice sends the message that the Applicant is worthy of the public trust.

Had this Applicant committed these acts while a practicing attorney, this Court has no doubt that he would have been disbarred. Disbarmenthas occurred for less egregious conduct.

To allow this Applicant to be admitted would send an inconsistent message to members of the public and to the profession as a whole.

The Applicant here is a man who has accomplished much. But having reviewed the evidence and taking into account all the relevant considerations, and the authorities in England, the United States, the OECS and other jurisdictions, I am constrained to refuse this application for admission.

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