British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

House Speaker opts to skip second scheduled COI appearance

House Speaker opts to skip second scheduled COI appearance

Speaker of the House of Assembly (HOA), Julian Willock has indicated he will likely not attend his hearing before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) this Friday at noon.

The revelation was made earlier today when the COI was told through an email sent by one of the Speaker’s attorneys last night.

In the email — which was read aloud during a livestream COI session Wednesday morning — the Speaker reportedly claimed he did not receive any written summons regarding his next scheduled appearance this Friday.

Willock was initially summoned to appear before the COI on Monday, June 14 but he declined to attend. On the morning of that hearing, his attorney Richard Rowe, for the first time, informed the COI that the Speaker was otherwise engaged at a pre-planned event with the Commonwealth Association of the House of Assembly. It was thereafter that Rowe guaranteed his client would make himself available to appear for a scheduled hearing this coming Friday.

But in a letter sent to his attorneys at Silk Legal and forwarded to the COI secretary late last evening, Willock said: “I am not aware of when I have to appear before the Commission of Inquiry, as I have NOT seen anything in writing from you nor a summons from the COI after indicating I was available on Monday, 14th June 2021 at 1:30 pm. However, I will make myself available on Monday, June 21st at 1 pm.”

The letter/email continued: “I am very busy with House of Assembly matters as we have another sitting on Thursday, 17th June 2021. Please convey to the Commissioner that I will be on standby for Monday, and when they are ready for me, I will arrive. However, I will not be sitting in a waiting room for hours. Please confirm when this has been conveyed to the COI and send me a copy of whatever paper you would be required to file on my behalf to give effect to this request.”

Willock’s attorney disputes his claim

Returning before to the COI this morning, Rowe disputed Willock’s claim entirely and told the COI that the Speaker was properly informed orally of the requirement for him to attend a hearing this Friday.

He also said lawyers are ‘creatures of their instructions’ and can only advise their clients of the consequences of their actions.

Rowe said Willock instructed the lawyers to send the email to the COI.

COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom then pointed out that not attending the hearing when he is due meant the Speaker would be in breach of the summons sent to him, which would essentially equate to “a criminal offence”.

It was further highlighted that the summons for the attendance of all witnesses, including HOA members remains an open one; meaning that witnesses only needed to be served correctly in the first instance and can be recalled at any time subsequently without the issuance of a new summons.

Commissioner Hickinbottom added that everyone requested to attend the COI hearings is also required to attend 20 minutes in advance of their scheduled time.


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