Hughes quits Commission of Inquiry
- over grilling of Hicken
There was drama at the High Court yesterday when Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes abruptly quit the Commission of Inquiry in the Linden killings following a fiery clash with Senior Superintendent of Police Clifton Hicken and Commission Chairman Justice Lensley Wolfe.
Hughes strode briskly out of the High Court Law Library after the lively exchange and later told journalists that he was being prevented from questioning Hicken. The former E & F Divisional Commander is considered to be a key witness at the hearing, because of phone contact he had with Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee after the shootings and allegations that he was seen with a partly concealed firearm on the day the Lindeners were slain.
The flare-up at yesterday’s proceedings occurred when Hughes began questioning Hicken about a meeting that he attended in the Ministry of Home Affairs Boardroom on July 17 for a briefing on the planned protest action at Linden.
Hughes apparently became peeved when Hicken repeatedly stated that he could not recall salient details of the meeting, which was attended by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, Commissioner of Police Leroy Brumell and Crime Chief Seelall Persaud.
Hicken contradicted himself in stating at one point that the possibility of the Mackenzie/ Wismar Bridge being blocked by protestors was discussed at the meeting, and later denying that he had anticipated that the bridge would have been blocked.
Things got even worse when Hicken repeatedly said that he could not recall the duration of the meeting.
“Was it a two–minute or a five–minute meeting?” Hughes asked.
“I want to be precise; I cannot recall the length of time the meeting lasted,” Hicken responded.
“Would you describe it as a very short meeting?”
“I would describe it as a meeting… in terms of time, I cannot recall.”
“I have a difficulty accepting that you don’t recall how long the meeting lasted,” Hughes told Hicken.
“I have a difficulty with you telling me that I don’t know where I was,” Hicken responded.
“Was that meeting more than four hours? Hughes asked.
“I can’t recall, Sir.”
“Could you have been there for more than two hours?” Hughes asked again.
“I cannot recall, Sir.”
Hughes: “Let me suggest that you and the Minister were there for six hours, would you deny that?”
Hicken: “I don’t understand what you are suggesting, Sir. If you ask me a question I will answer you.”
Hughes: “You don’t understand that suggestion?”
Hicken (turning to the Commissioners): “Esteemed Commissioners, permit me to—
Hughes: “Shoot me?”
There was a burst of laughter from some of the attorneys, but it was at that point that Commission Chairman Justice Lensley Wolfe delivered his sharp rebuke to the attorney.
“Mr. Hughes, you will withdraw what you just said; it’s totally improper….at this point in time you have no basis for saying something like that. As a matter of fact, if you do not withdraw what you said, your cross examination of this witness will be terminated by the Commission. Protocol must be observed. You are a member of the legal profession. The ethics of the profession must be observed.”
Hughes did not withdraw his statement and indicated to the Commission that he was withdrawing from the hearing. He then left the Law Library.
Speaking later with journalists outside, the attorney-at-law indicated that he had become frustrated at what he felt were attempts by the Commission to prevent him from fully questioning Hicken.
“I was hired to represent the interests of the families of the deceased. I am of the opinion that I would no longer be allowed to represent them or discharge this duty. I have informed those that I spoke to. I stand by what I said.”
“I’ve spoken my mind…my position is clear. I am not going to put my clients at a disadvantage,” Hughes added, while stating that he had absolutely no reason to apologise.
The Commission has indicated that Hughes will have to submit a formal statement indicating that he was no longer participating in the hearing.
Questioned by Kaieteur News, Chairman of the Commission Justice Wolfe declined to say what impact Hughes’ withdrawal would have on the hearing, but said that the matter will be discussed when the Commission meets today.
However, Hughes’ decision is likely to leave the Commission in some disarray, since he was representing the interests of the relatives of the three slain Lindeners.
Prior to the drama, Attorney-at Law James Bond had questioned Hicken on whether he had any knowledge of whether the Force had any double ammunition in stock. The Former Divisional Commander said that he had no knowledge of this.
However, Hicken conceded that he had spoken by telephone to Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee after the shooting of the Lindeners had occurred.