Got TIPS or BREAKING NEWS? Please call 1-284-442-8000 or Email ALL news to:newsvino@outlook.com; ads call 1-284-440-6666

Summons to media was breach of natural justice- R. Dancia Penn QC, OBE

-Justice Nicole Byer said summons was done as a means of ensuring all media house attended court to hear of its concerns
The recent summoning of media houses by the High Court has been blasted by Senior Queen Counsel and former Attorney General Dancia Penn QC, OBE who labelled it as a breach of Natural Justice. Photo: VINO/File
The editors of various news sites in the Virgin Islands were summoned to appear in the High Court of Justice (Criminal Division) on July 24, 2015. Photo: VINO
The editors of various news sites in the Virgin Islands were summoned to appear in the High Court of Justice (Criminal Division) on July 24, 2015. Photo: VINO
According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Wayne Rajbansie, the matter was not an adversarial proceeding as it was merely a dialogue among persons who were deemed important to the criminal justice system because they dispense to the general and wider public information that occurs within the court. Photo; VINO/File
According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Wayne Rajbansie, the matter was not an adversarial proceeding as it was merely a dialogue among persons who were deemed important to the criminal justice system because they dispense to the general and wider public information that occurs within the court. Photo; VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- The recent summoning of media houses by the High Court has been blasted by Senior Queen Counsel and former Attorney General R. Dancia Penn QC, OBE who labelled it as a breach of natural justice.

The editors of various news companies in the Virgin Islands including BVI News, Island Sun, BVI Beacon, Virgin Islands News Online and BVI Platinum News were summoned to appear in the High Court of Justice (Criminal Division) on July 24, 2015.

The ‘Summons to Defendants’ did not state who was the Complainant and what the Complaint was exactly about.

According to the Summons issued to Virgin Islands News Online, “Complaint has been made IN THE MATTER OF ALL CRIMINAL CASES BEFORE THE COURT, THAT all commentaries on articles on various websites shall be disabled for all matters under the court’s consideration until the final determination of matters.

All existing posted commentaries on ongoing trials should be removed from the online news site Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) in the island of Tortola in the Territory of the Virgin Islands.”

Not adversarial matter

According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Wayne Rajbansie, the matter was not an adversarial proceeding as it was merely a dialogue among persons who were deemed important to the criminal justice system because they dispense to the general and wider public information that occurs within the court. “So that no one here is trying to persecute, prosecute or calling you to defend yourself,” Mr Rajbansie said.

He said in small jurisdictions people know people and so the media must be careful about what they relate to the general public, especially when relating to cases where children are involved in criminal proceedings.

No cases are a waste of time

The DPP also chided certain media houses for allowing blogs from persons commenting that certain cases were a waste of time. He said persons at the DDP Office work no less than 12 to 15 hours a day, including on a Saturday and Sunday for some counsels. “When you accuse of us wasting time I take umbrage to that.”

One of the major concerns of the DPP and the court was that allowing news sites to post blogs on ongoing criminal proceedings could influence the outcome of cases since jurors could be swayed by such information.

It was also noted that media houses should take into consideration the welfare of the victim as well as the defendant when reporting on criminal proceedings since emotional and other damages could also be done.

According to the DDP, he expects far more responsible journalism in the next assizes, failing which the DDP under the Constitution can institute criminal proceedings for contempt of court.

High disturbing

Meanwhile, Mrs Penn had turned up in court on behalf of the Island Sun, and after listening to the judge, some reporters and the DPP, said she found the matter highly disturbing and that it seriously calls for concern.

Noting that she is in full support of the attempts of the court to impress upon responsible journalism from the media, Mrs Penn said her concern was with the process in which it was being done.

“I can see as a lawyer that we are on a slippery slope and it is a slope that we should get off...There are objective problems with this process because what has happened here is that people have been brought before the court in a criminal matter, irrespective of what the DDP said. It is a criminal proceeding, brought before the jurisdiction of the criminal court on a summons.”

Breach of Natural Justice

Mrs Penn said persons cannot be called before the court, irrespective of who they are, without being told what the nature of the complaint is. “They didn’t not know who the Complainant was. They did not know what the Complaint was. They did not know what the particulars were. These are fundamentals of natural justice and that is part of why I am convinced we are going down a slippery slope.”

In an emotional tone, the senior and respected legal practitioner said the men and women of the media should not have been brought to the court on a summons of this nature and subjected to what she thought was “quite a tirade” on them.

“I think it was a tirade. We have to be very vigilant about how we handle these things,” submitted Mrs Penn who disclosed that she was also concerned that it was only the DPP prosecutors and the court against the media and had it not been for the Island Sun she would not have been in court to say anything on such an important issue.

“Matters of this kind should also involve the Attorney General,” Mrs Penn further advised.

However, Justice Byer said the summons was only done to ensure that all the media houses attended to hear the concerns of the court and also reiterated that the matter was not an adverserial one.

Meanwhile, a member of the media highlighted to the court that readers are free to copy stories from websites and post on their own social media pages and have persons comment on them.

According to Justice Byer, she has no control of that. “What I am saying is that you have control over the blogs on the official reports on your websites.”

Last warning

She also noted that the summoning of the media was the last warning to reporters as she has spoken to media house before on their responsibility when reporting on ongoing criminal matters and the disallowing of blogs on such.

Mrs Penn added that the public has a legitimate interest in the criminal justice system and in the criminal judicial processes and that the media has an interest in it as well but it has to be balanced, responsible and fair.

Freedom of the Press being chipped away

“And in this jurisdiction a lot of injustice has been done and they are concerned with the freedom of expression and freedom of the press and what they are seeing as methods of chipping away at that freedom of the press and the consequences of the wider society.

We are in a very delicate zone. I think that it is very important that we keep those scales of justice in balance and that the media has to do its part. The media has to be very responsible in how it reports but report it must.”

According to Mrs Penn, she doesn’t see the recent summoning of the media as the end to the issues she raised by herself and the court.

“I see the challenges that technology is going to bring to this and a lot of the responsibility will fall on the courts as the keepers of balance in the society.”

Justice Nicole Byer then had the matter disposed, with no orders made.

18 Responses to “Summons to media was breach of natural justice- R. Dancia Penn QC, OBE”

  • wize up (27/07/2015, 12:35) Like (6) Dislike (7) Reply

    why them don't go to T&T and assist Jack Warner; some persons come into our territory and hell bent on pusing the citzens around: local media been coverings court proceedings for years now and all of a sudden one wise @$$ have issues....

  • vex (27/07/2015, 12:44) Like (4) Dislike (4) Reply
    SMH THE DDP HAS A CHIP BUT GOD DOES NOT SLEEP
  • facts man (27/07/2015, 12:47) Like (19) Dislike (8) Reply
    Tell um dancee its just a set up to go after vino
  • VG 1 (27/07/2015, 13:11) Like (16) Dislike (10) Reply
    Let it be known to the courts , that we still live in a democratic society, not a dictatorship. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
  • concern (27/07/2015, 14:33) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
    Where they come from they can not do that people in the BVI keep quiet for too long that things get out of hand it is time we stand up and say we had enough In the near future we will have to ask permission to go the bath room the leader of this place should be a shame of him self let me refresh you remember the crowd that rally around your party well these are the same people you are blocking from knowing what is going on in the country.
  • Clearly (27/07/2015, 14:46) Like (25) Dislike (7) Reply
    Clearly the NDP behind this again. Everyone now in this country wants to please NDP rather than doing the right thing.
  • Scary Mary (27/07/2015, 17:00) Like (21) Dislike (1) Reply
    "According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Wayne Rajbansie, the matter was not an adversarial proceeding"

    If it was not adversarial, then why was this "discussion" not held at your office and why was a criminal summons issued to appear in high court?

    In my opinion, issuing a summons to criminal court make this situation both adversarial and threatening. Maybe that's just me but ...
    • i from here (27/07/2015, 20:08) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
      And dem say he went like a mad dog after a news site and eveb duscuseed a letter sent to him....set of %_%£%
  • Liat 521 (27/07/2015, 17:14) Like (12) Dislike (1) Reply
    There must be a reason why everbody wants to get out of the dpp office
  • Kigfish (27/07/2015, 17:33) Like (13) Dislike (8) Reply
    That's what you all get for putting them liying people back in for we will suck salt for another 4years God help us all. It's either their way or brother the highway.

  • Hell no (27/07/2015, 17:35) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
    It is wrong; we the people of the BVI needs to know what is going on in our country. Do you know how much the media has helped us? If this is stop it will be like not broadcasting a hurricane upon us and we need to get prepare. We trust our young girls and boys in the hands of child molester sex offenders and don't even know it. We will put our money in the hands of thieves and don't know it and the list goes on and on. So this can’t happen. It must not happen. Thank goodness for NINOL we need to know who to trust and who not to trust.
  • ABC (27/07/2015, 18:19) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    if WE ARE NOT CAREFUL WE WILL BE TOLD NOT TO ASK ANY QUESTIONS CONCERNING TH BI WATER ISSUE UNTIL ALL DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE NEW OWNER AND THE LOCAL COMPANY, WHICH IS KNOW TO BE OWNED BY THE GOVERNMENT, HAS BEEN FINALISED.
  • power hungry (27/07/2015, 20:08) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
    He need to stop!
  • pete (27/07/2015, 22:40) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    thank you Dancia for speaking truth to power!
  • my $2.cents (28/07/2015, 00:07) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    she does a better job in the legal profession that in politricks
  • upset (28/07/2015, 05:18) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    Why is the DPP trying to muscle the press and the people of these Virgin Islands? Why did he not try it in TT? Are we following China and Russia? We must train our people and prepare them for these positions that we are outsourcing. For one thing the money goes out of the country and that is the bottom line. They care nothing about the people of these islands. Wise up and see we are being sold by our reps so they can do what they want secretly. This territory is sliding so fast that soon Virgin Islanders will not be able to laugh or cough. Are we heading for communism?
  • eyes (28/07/2015, 07:07) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    They want to take our lives like sheep and we just stay quiet. they want to throw us in the lions den and we must shout for help, they want to victimize us and damn and intimidate the media to challenge them, they want to send our young men to jail and we must not know, or question Why....What`s next?
  • lord-o (28/07/2015, 07:15) Like (11) Dislike (2) Reply
    Thank you Mrs. Penn. lord, God sent you...look what they trying to do to us--Keep the good, courageous and Godly fight up Mrs. Penn


Create a comment


Create a comment

Disclaimer: Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) welcomes your thoughts, feedback, views, bloggs and opinions. However, by posting a blogg you are agreeing to post comments or bloggs that are relevant to the topic, and that are not defamatory, liable, obscene, racist, abusive, sexist, anti-Semitic, threatening, hateful or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be excluded permanently from making contributions. Please view our declaimer above this article. We thank you in advance for complying with VINO's policy.

Weather


Follow Us On

Disclaimer: All comments posted on Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) are the sole views and opinions of the commentators and or bloggers and do not in anyway represent the views and opinions of the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of Virgin Islands News Online and its parent company.