GG has say on Privy Council’s Mercy Committee


WHILE the local media has a right to carry the news to the public of Barbados, greater effort must be made to ensure that all the facts presented are correct when a story is published.
Governor General of Barbados, His Excellency Sir Elliott Belgrave, suggested the above recently, as he referred to a matter appearing in local newspapers, which was said to be linked to the operations of the Privy Council’s Mercy Committee.
“In a democracy, the press is very important. They must carry the news of what happens to the public. They must be able to criticise, but when they criticise, they must do it fairly,” Sir Elliott remarked.
“Recently, there has been a lot of chatter in the press concerning the work of the Privy Council; they call it the Mercy Committee. What I don’t agree with is that when you criticise, you must make sure that your facts are facts. But one of the articles (to) which I take exception, seeks to give the impression that members of the Privy Council go into districts to investigate cases which might come before the Privy Council, for dispensation of mercy,” he pointed out.
“Members of the Privy Council do not do that. We do not go out in any community seeking for information. So if anybody went out there doing that, (they) could not be members of the Privy Council,” he continued.
“Additionally, the case which was highlighted as being ripe for early remission of sentence, was never before the Privy Council. It was never there. And putting the inmate’s name in the Press when there was no petition … before the Privy Council, was a little prejudicial to his case… if at any time one should be sent up,” Sir Elliott further stated.
He then declared, “So the first thing they should do, get their facts… right and don’t seek to publish unfairly the case of a man who has not yet applied to the Privy Council for clemency.”
Noting that the Mercy Committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and is headed by himself as the Governor General, Sir Elliott noted that other members on board are not publicly identified, so as to ensure that they are not harassed.
“The members are not usually made public, because we don’t want them to be harassed by anybody, but the press chose to mention names and mentioned the name of a person who is not even a member of the Council,” Sir Elliott stated.
He added, “So that is the sort of thing that makes me unhappy.”
“Though I applaud the Press for doing its work, I counsel them to be careful and before they write something, check it out,” he concluded. (RSM)


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