Bar Association condemns Magistrate Donna Harris; admits Monday’s incident is not isolated
Photo Caption – The BarAssociation President, Dahlia Joseph Rowe
By: Erasmus Williams, (Contributor)
Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 5, 2019 – President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association, Dahlia Joseph Rowe, has broken her silence and finally admitted that “members of the legal profession have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the manner, unbecoming of a Magistrate, in which Magistrate (Donna) Harris, addresses and conducts herself towards lawyers appearing before her.”
The Bar Association president issued the statement Tuesday following Monday’s decision of Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Valston Graham to pull his prosecutorial officers and orderlies the court room of Magistrate Donna Harris, a sister of Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris after she threw out a Crown Counsel.
Describing the incident as “most unfortunate,” the bar association president said the occurrence raises serious issues which go to the heart of the administration of justice in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The Bar Association is satisfied that the occurrence is by no means an isolated one” and supported the decision of DPP Graham to suspend prosecutorial services to Magistrate Harris’ court until the issues surrounding the conduct on the Bench of Magistrate Harris have been satisfactorily addressed.
“The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association wholeheartedly supports the DPP in his decision,” said the Bar President.
Rowe added that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association is mandated by law to among other things “to promote good relations within the profession and between the profession and persons concerned in the administration of justice in Saint Christopher and Nevis; promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law and maintain the honour and independence of the Bar in its relations with the judiciary and the executive.
“While we appreciate that every judicial officer has the prerogative within the law to manage his or her Court as he or she deems appropriate, we also recognize that Attorneys-at-Law are also officers of the Court and that mutual respect between Bench and Bar is paramount in furthering the proper administration of justice,” said Rowe.
She expressed the Bar’s view that the “public deserves to have full confidence in our justice system.”
“The Association is monitoring the situation and trusts that it will be swiftly resolved in the best interests of the rule of law,” said Joseph.
In giving reasons for his decision to recall his prosecution team from Donna Harris’ court, the DPP made it clear he “will never be an obstructionist to justice.”
“My job is the furtherance of the delivery of justice in this Federation,” said Graham, stating his decision was justified.
“I find it intolerable the behaviour of magistrate Harris. You cannot insult, ridicule and denigrate the prosecutors that appear before you and without justification. I have tolerated it long enough. I am not putting up with it anymore,” said Graham.