THERE is ‘no evidence whatosever’ of political interference in court proceedings, Chief Minister Tony Brown told MHKs.
In a bad tempered exchange in the House of Keys, Mr Brown rebuked Peter Karran (Lib Vannin, Onchan) for ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations.
He insisted: ‘The independence of the Isle of Man judiciary is absolute – I repeat, the independence of the Isle of Man judiciary is absolute – and I take great offence, as a Manxman, when the Hon. Member, outside of this House, refers to us a ‘banana republic’. We are not.’
Mr Karran had called for an independent inquiry to be launched following the intervention of Attorney General John Corlett in the sentencing of a young advocate convicted of money laundering.
Mr Corlett advised the prosecuting counsel that the ‘eyes of the International Monetary Fund were on the island.’
In the event, lawyer Jenny Holt, who is appealing against her conviction, walked free from court with a suspended sentence.
Mr Brown said: ‘I can categorically assure the House and the public that I know of no occasion at all – and am absolutely confident – that no such instruction has ever been issued by the Council of Ministers to her Majesty’s Attorney General to persuade, influence, or interfere with the judicial process and especially in relation to persuading the judiciary to reach an outcome which is politically motivated.’
He insisted there was ‘no evidence or justification whatsoever’ for an inquiry.
And he said he was ‘astounded’ that Mr Karran, one of the longest-serving MHKs, would ‘contemplate making such an unsubstantiated assertion’.
‘One thing is sure: he has not got a clue how the judicial system works in the Isle of Man.
‘In every criminal case it is the duty of the prosecuting advocate to assist the sentencing court by, at the very least, assisting the court with its sentencing powers and guideline cases. The prosecutor must, therefore, take an active role in the sentencing process and, of course, the Attorney General is the prosecutor in this case.’
But Mr Karran hit back: ‘Instead of having a hissy fit, the fact is that your AG is a member of the Council of Ministers.
‘He is also a Member of the Legislative Council. Does he not feel that there is a conflict?’
But Mr Brown pointed out that the Attorney General was not a member of CoMin but an adviser to the council, and he did not have a vote in Tynwald.
He said Mr Karran continued ‘to distort, for his own political reasons, and makes statements with no foundation whatsoever’.
Brenda Cannell (Douglas East) said she did not want to get involved in a ‘spat’. When the Chief Minister denied there was any spat, there were jeers from the public gallery, prompting Speaker Steve Rodan to warned he would close the chamber if there were any further interruptions.
The Holt family has taken out an advert in the local media thanking the ‘many friends and well wishers’ who have offered ‘support, love and prayers’ during the case.