Bunting says he acted on legal advice when he issued certificates of immunity to soldiers accused in 2010 killing

by February 18th, 2020

Former National Security Minister, Peter Bunting has indicated that he acted on legal advice when he issued the Certificates of Immunity to the Jamaica Defence Force soldiers accused in the 2010 killing of Keith Clarke.

This morning, (February 18) the Constitutional Court ruled that the immunity certificates granted to three soldiers charged in the murder of Keith Clarke, are null and void.

The ruling paves the way for the soldiers to stand trial.

In a statement today, Mr. Bunting said he has taken note of the courts ruling, adding that he is aware that the judgment could be appealed, and that there may be a jury trial for the three soldiers involved.

The certificates were issued by Mr. Bunting on February 22, 2016.

Mr. Bunting said he observed 2 points made by the court. One, that the minister’s power to issue good faith certificates under the emergency powers regulations does not infringe and is not in conflict with the principle of the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution.

And two, that the emergency powers regulations do not infringe on the prosecutorial powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions under the constitution.

Mr. Bunting also highlighted the section of the judgment which indicated that “by issuing the good faith certificates, the minister made no determination in relation to the culpability of the defendants. The function performed by the minister could be described as being administrative in nature and was not a judicial process. It cannot therefore be said that, in this regard, the minister usurped the role or function of the judiciary.”

The former minister also took note that the court was divided on the issue of whether the delay in the issuing of the certificates of good faith was unfair, and the certificates were therefore null and void. The majority indicated that the certificates were null and void due to the length of time that had passed, without giving any indication as to what would have been a reasonable time.

Mr. Bunting said, in signing the Good Faith Certificates as the National Security Minister in 2016, he relied on the legal advice received, and therefore could not have responsibly taken an administrative decision to deny the soldiers access to the certificates of good faith.

He pointed out that the split decision by the court indicates that these are not clear cut legal matters.

He expressed hope that the ultimate resolution of this aspect of the case will provide clear guidance for the future.