Justice Minister Cecil Clarke offered his resignation on Wednesday night after another prisoner was mistakenly released, but Premier Rodney MacDonald did not accept it.
“He does a tremendous job,” MacDonald told reporters yesterday after the government’s weekly cabinet meeting.
“I would never accept (his resignation).”
On Wednesday, Clarke revealed Ryan Jessop, 22, was released from court when he should have been sent back to prison. Jessop, who still hasn’t been found, faces charges including possession of a weapon, uttering threats and extortion.
On Monday the department realized it had mistakenly released another violent offender six days earlier. That man, Chancelor Faulkner, turned himself in on Wednesday.
MacDonald called the releases unacceptable, but said he stands by Clarke.
“The minister’s record is one that the government is very proud of,” MacDoanld said. “Violent crimes are down. Property crimes are down. We see more officers on our streets. We see fewer drugs in the hands of our young people.”
But Liberal critic Michel Samson says his calls for Clarke to step down as minister have been vindicated.
“Now that he’s actually publicly acknowledged he’s offered his resignation, Cecil Clarke is now a lame duck minister who lacks the legitimacy to continue leading the department of justice,” he said.
Samson said Clarke picked needless battles with employees and failed to act on changes to prevent mistaken releases. He also suggested that the reason the premier is keeping Clarke on is because the Tories have only one backbencher.
“The changes were there for what needed to take place to avoid these situations,” Samson said.
“Cecil was unable to have those changes implemented and now must live with the consequences of that inaction.”
Clarke brushed off Samson’s attacks as political posturing. He said his department is working to fix the mistakes and investigating what went wrong with the releases. He said disciplinary action would be taken.