ATTORNEY GENERAL RESPONDS TO MATT PRESS RELEASE:
“MATT CONDEMNS AG’S MEDIA ATTACK”
The publication of evidence by the media that is the subject of an on-going criminal investigation must be a matter of concern to all right-thinking citizens. It affects the integrity of the administration of criminal justice and could give rise to issues of pre-trial publicity if a charge is laid. The right to freedom of the press is not absolute and cannot trump the overriding need to protect the investigative process of the State.
The leaking of a police investigation report with witness statements when the DPP is considering the matter undermines the rule of law. The police report on the flying squad investigation is before the DPP and it was improper for the evidence to be leaked and published whilst the DPP deliberates on whether charges should be laid.
The report from the Police Complaints Authority must, in law, be submitted to the Minister of National Security who would advise the National Security Council if it involves a matter if National Security. The findings of the PCA “clearing” any suspect are not binding on the DPP. The premature publication of such evidence could have a prejudicial effect on an on-going investigation. It is not unusual for the DPP to request further evidence and additional investigation on any particular file and hence the investigation must be respectfully treated as on-going.
It is in this context that the AG regards the publication of these reports by the Express newspaper as highly improper and a breach of the journalistic code of ethics.
It is unfortunate that the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago is selective in its criticisms and issuing of press releases. The Attorney General notes that it issued no press release when the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley recently attacked renowned editor and journalist Lennox Grant. Likewise, it did not release any statement when Andre Bagoo was barred from entering a media event at the President’s House. There must be some measure of political fairness and consistency in its releases to ensure that it is perceived as politically independent.