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CoI is an 'Inquisition'- Richard G. Rowe

CoI is an 'Inquisition'- Richard G. Rowe

The one-sided nature of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into governance called by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert has prompted Attorney at Law Mr Richard G. Rowe to refer to it as an inquisition.

According to Dictionary.com, an inquisition is defined as an ‘official investigation, especially one of a political or religious nature, characterised by lack of regard for individual rights, prejudice on the part of the examiners, and recklessly cruel punishments.’

‘Cherry-picking exercise’


Speaking at a June 30, 2021, press conference called by Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon Julian Willock to produce evidence to the public that he was not in violation of the Register of Interests Act, Mr Rowe of Silk Legal also reiterated that the CoI is in breach of the laws of the Virgin Islands, since its solicitors have not been called to the bar in the VI.

“What we should understand is what is happening now is a cherry-picking exercise. The Commission through solicitors who are not yet called to the bar in the BVI are in Breach of our laws, select documents from whatever sources they collect them and send them to us."

"We, lawyers, are subjected to simply sitting there besides our clients not being able to even communicate with them…to ask questions, to add to the documents they have."

According to Mr Rowe, this is in breach of the “Solomon Rules” which he said are the laws that control how Commission of Inquiries are conducted.

The Commission of Inquiry under sole commissioner and United Kingdom national, Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom, has been described as a cherry-picking exercise.


CoI an inquisition!- Rowe


“So what we have is an inquisition which is one way. They have chosen what they wish to produce, we don’t know, we have raised this with the commissioner that we really want a chance to produce our own evidence to rebut what they may have produced and clarify it, we have gotten no response as to if or when that will happen.”

He further explained, "So what we get are bundles sent to us electronically and when we come to the commission hearing, the commissioner and [Counsel] Mr [Bilal] Rawat, is able to coordinate between themselves you will notice, every page and to follow up with questions they have, got ya questions,… that’s not an inquiry, it is said to be an inquisition."

Counsel to the Commission of Inquiry, Mr Bilal Rawat is accused of operating illegally in the Virgin Islands since he has not been called to the Virgin Islands Bar as required by law. P


Issues with CoI taken to court


Asked why he and other lawyers are allowing the status quo to continue despite knowing “it is one-tracked”, Mr Rowe explained that there is not much they can do further to try to get the process done in a lawful manner.

“What we have done, and we can’t go further, we have filed documents to deal with the illegalities of the solicitors acting in breach of our laws. That action is before the court now. They are not being called, we are challenging even the counsel, he too should have been called.”

Mr Rowe had previously told the Commission that non-compliance with the Legal Profession Act, 2015 to be practising law in the VI would be considered a criminal act.

According to Mr Rowe on June 30, 2021, “If we do not get the right to have our natural justice under the Solomon Rules as promised by the Commissioner when I read it with them, we will be going to the courts for judicial review.”

While Rowe declined to publicly name the persons who he alleged are working with the Commission of Inquiry in breach of VI laws, our research has found that complaints have been filed in the High Court against Andrew Ian James King and Rhea Harrikissoon.

During one of the hearings, Commissioner Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom had explained that the CoI is not a trial and as such cross-examinations by lawyers were not permitted but Mr Rowe argued that the Commissioner appears to be operating under rules applicable in England and not the law that is applicable in the Virgin Islands.

“So we are waiting with bated breath to see if we get an opportunity for these modern rules of natural justice to apply to this Commission of Inquiry or whether it is just going to be a propaganda fiasco because that is all it appears to be now…” Mr Rowe said.

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