The Mahdia Dorm Fire Commission of Inquiry has denied a request by Attorney-at-Law Dexter Todd for the inquiry to be halted until the completion of the Court case against the 15-year-old girl who is facing 20 murder charges in relation to the dorm fire deaths.
The Secretary to the Commission, Javed Shaddick told News Source today that the Commission will be proceeding with its work.
Attorney Dexter Todd, who is representing the teenage murder accused wrote to the Commission last week expressing concern that if the case against his client goes to full trial, she could face a tainted jury, since the testimonies and proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry will be televised nationally and streamed across the internet.
But today, Shaddick assured that even as the Commission continues its work, safeguards would be put in place to protect the rights of the children.
“Yes, the Commission will be proceeding with its work,” the Secretary said.
The Secretary explained that the Commission will be guided by the Commission of Inquiry Act, in particular Section 9, which empowers it to create its own rules and operate in a manner it deems fit.
He said given the sensitive nature of the case before the Commission, some of the hearings will be held in camera, and therefore would not be streamed live.
“The Terms of Reference as you know has different parts, and it requires us to investigate different parts and make recommendations. So, the Commission will be proceeding and depending on which aspect they are looking at, we will make the necessary arrangements for hearings to be held publicly. When it concerns sensitive parts, especially with children, then the Commission will make different arrangements for those aspects but yes, we will be proceeding,” Shaddick explained.
Shaddick dismissed Todd’s concern that the work of the Commission could result in his client facing a tainted jury. He said the COI is completely different from the ongoing Court case.
“Those are two completely different aspects to the scenario. On one hand you have a criminal trial that is ongoing, and if we could compare once again the General and Regional Elections, where those trials were also going on while we were doing the Commission of Inquiry. In terms of what we are going to do to guard against prejudice or impact on that trial, I can say all the information and everything that will be taken by the Commission in the sensitive areas, those information will be strictly guarded,” Shaddick reasoned.
But Todd in his letter, said there may be nothing that the Commission of Inquiry would be able to do to avoid references to his client’s name during some of the testimonies that will be made before the Commission of Inquiry.
Shaddick assured that the Commission will protect the identities of all children, and would do its best to safeguard sensitive information.
“A lot of safeguards are being put in place. One thing I can tell you, we are going to ensure that as far as possible that to, in protection of children, you would know, especially those under the age of 18, names are not mentioned and things like that. Identities are safeguards as much as possible,” he assured.
Public hearings are likely to commence later this month.
The Attorney for the murder accused has warned that he could move to the High Court to force the Commission to put a pause on its proceedings.