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Where’s evidence, asks Israel Khan

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Outspoken Senior Counsel Israel Khan has added his voice to the chorus of commentary over the prison litigation collusion issue, describing allegations of former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell as “unspecified and ambiguous.” Khan, in a letter to the media yesterday, called on Donaldson-Honeywell to “provide adequate evidence, detailed allegations and reliable information to justify her most serious call for investigation.”


In the three-page document, Khan refered to the areas of concern highlighted in a pair of letters Donaldson-Honeywell sent to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last August, before her resignation from the office of the Attorney General in January. 



“As to what Ms Honeywell meant by unethical business venture is beyond me. Is she saying that prisoners are making up allegations and the attorneys are encouraging it with the assistance of the prison officers? Who are the parties involved in this unethical business venture?” Khan asked. He said if the allegation was true it also affected attorneys who worked under her, as it showed they too were “unethical, dishonestly and criminally failing to properly defend” claims.


Khan also described Donaldson-Honeywell’s statement that there was a conflict of interest “in certain key officers-holders increasingly taking action to support this unethical business” as a “wild and dangerous sweeping reference,” as she failed to reveal the exact conflict or identify the office-holders. 


“I myself have prosecuted matters for the State and defended individuals against the State... I myself have sued the State on behalf of clients for malicious prosecutions and I have defended the State against individuals who sue the State for malicious prosecution. No informed legal mind could ever properly accuse me of unethical conflict of interest in taking these cases,” he said. 



Khan also took issue with Donaldson-Honeywell’s call to Persad-Bissessar for an investigation into the issue to be conducted, noting she had failed to bring a “shred of evidence” to substantiate her claims. “A call for an investigation must not be based upon premature beliefs or conclusions as to guilt or innocence but are guided by the prima facia information/allegations/facts,” Khan said. 


He also questioned the timing of the letter, as he claimed the issue of prison litigation had been raised by the Prisons Officers’ Association since 2005 and as recently as weeks before Donaldson-Honeywell penned her letter to the Prime Minister. 



“However, it is my suspicion that Ms Honeywell, SC, quickly (within the same August 2013) drafted her letter sheepishly hoping to deflect the true source of the concerns of the Prisons Officers’ Association and as a quick attempt to excuse and cover up the embarrassment of the failing losing rate of her department,” Khan said. 



History of complaint

In a letter sent to former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell in May 2011, Burton Hill, the general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, asked her for an urgent meeting to discuss the defence of prisoner litigation against its members. 


The letter, obtained by the T&T Guardian, stated that the association had observed that several inmates had won a number of cases against the State where a proper defence was “not being presented or poorly managed” by members of Donaldson-Honeywell’s office. 
“The situation is creating an extremely poor image of our service and is also placing the lives of officers and their family in jeopardy,” the letter said.



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