UNC wrong on ‘Scoon warrant case’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE Opposition UNC may have spoken out of turn when one of its senators referred to the recent ruling on the judicial review claim brought by businessman Adrian Scoon on the validity of the search warrants approved by a justice of the peace.

Scoon had challenged the decisions of JP Oliver Boodhu to approve the warrants for the policeinvestigations into a Boxing Day brunch on the Ocean Pelican party boat.

On Friday, Justice Ricky Rahim set aside the warrants. In his order, he noted that the JP and the Solicitor General, having been served with the proceedings, failed to attend court on any of the occasions that the matter was called to lead evidence and make submissions. He said the court determined the claim on its merits.

However, sources said the judicial review claim to quash the warrant was filed against the JP and the Attorney General is not a proper party in judicial review proceedings.

It was pointed out that the civil procedure rules require that the Solicitor General – a department in the Ministry of the Attorney General – be notified of , “or served” with, all judicial reviews.

“In such situations, since it is not a proper ‘party,’ or defendant, the State was not compelled to advance a defence.”

One attorney pointed to the case involving the Tobago House of Assembly on the appointment of former PSA president Watson Duke as deputy chief secretary while still head of the union.

“In that case, the judge ruled Mr Duke was not properly joined and removed him as a defendant.”

As an interested party, Duke will not be exposed to paying costs and he can excise his option not to make any submissions.

“In the Scoon matter, it is different, since the State only has to be notified of the claim.”

On Thursday, Boodhu told Newsday that he did his job as a justice of the peace. He said the police presented him with certain information and he signed the warrants. He did not want to say why he chose not to defend the judicial review claim.

It is not certain if Boodhu will have to pay the court’s cost order, since, according to the Justice of the Peace Act of 2011, JPs have the concurrent jurisdiction of a magistrate. He does not believe he will have to, since, he said, he was not acting in a personal capacity, but represented the State in such matters.

“I did everything that was in accordance with the law,” he insisted. The Magistrates Protection Act protects magistrates and justices from “vexatious actions for acts done by them in the execution of their office,” but it was not clear if it covered JPs.

In a release, Opposition senator Saddam Hosein referred to Scoon’s case as well as a recent judgment involving former foreign service attaches for Trinidad and Tobago.

Hosein said the Opposition Leader, on Monday, raised the non-appearance of the State in court matters as an “alarming matter of extreme concern.”

The cases of Ashton Ford, a former attaché to the TT High Commission in London; Elvin Edwards, former PNM Arima mayor, and former attaché to the High Commission in Canada; and Andrea Chambers-Wilson, daughter of former prime minister George Chambers, as the attaché to the UNin New York, were undefended by the Attorney General.

Chambers-Wilson’s claim was dismissed since she did not file a witness statement and the court concluded she did not wish to proceed with the case.

However, Justice Robin Mohammed, in ruling in favour of Ford and Edwards, noted there was no evidence led by the State, so the facts and evidence of the two men remained unchallenged, and made his ruling on the merits of the claim filed. He ordered compensation for both men totalling $2.65 million for breach of the terms of their contract of employment.

Hosein also referred to several other cases, instituted by the former People’s Partnership administration, which were subsequently withdrawn, including the ETeck/Ken Julien, Petrotrin/Malcolm Jones, and the AV Oil arbitration matters.

In those cases, the State had received advice from separate senior and queen’s counsel to discontinue the claims, based on the reliability of the evidence.

In the foreign service claim, Persad-Bissessar questioned whether the decision will be appealed. Newsday was told up to yesterday, the State had not filed notice of appeal.

Questions were sent to the Office of the Attorney General on the Opposition’s claims but received no response.

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