A weekly digest of legal news under the following headings: –
Before the Courts
Developments in the Profession
Debated Bills / Legislation
Law and Society
Thousands of Haitians killed or sickened by a cholera epidemic that they blame on U.N. peacekeepers cannot sue the United Nations in a U.S. court because the U.N. has legal immunity that only it can waive, a judge has ruled.
The judgment can be found here.
The Barbados High Court ordered a Queen’s Counsel and Speaker of the House of Assembly to surrender funds he withheld for over two years from one of his clients.
An injunction was granted by the High Court on Friday restraining the St Kitts and Nevis government from proclaiming constituency boundaries changes.
Before the Courts
Bain v University of the West Indies
The litigation involving Professor Brendan Bain and the University of the West Indies began last week. The suit arose out of the termination of Bain’s contract as director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network (CHART) after civil society groups indicated they had lost confidence in him after he gave expert testimony before the Belizean courts in a case challenging the buggery law in that country. Bain gave that testimony at the request of church groups in Belize that oppose the challenge to the buggery law.
Bain’s claim against the UWI spans more than contract law. He also alleges that he was defamed by the University. More interestingly he claims that his constitutional rights to free speech have been infringed. The constitutional claim has led to the matter being decided by the Constitutional Court with justices Lennox Campbell, Paulette Williams, and Frank Williams presiding.
Extracts from the parties’ witness statements indicate that Bain feels that “his life work had been brought into serious disrepute” by UWI’s actions and that his “basic freedom of expression and thought as guaranteed by the Jamaican Charter”. In court, Bain testified to feeling “stifled, embarrassed and belittled”.
Nigel Harris, the outgoing Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, who made the decision to end Bain’s contract, says that the decision to terminate the contract was made because he “was of the opinion that he (Bain) destroyed the trust and confidence that was necessary for him to continue to represent the university and that he no longer commanded the support of a significant sector of the community to which CHART and PANCAP were accountable”.
Under cross examination Bain admitted that four human rights groups had cautioned him about the likely consequence of his report and that it would be dangerous for him to participate in the case. Bain has also testified that Harris tried to pacify the fallout and had asked him to reach out to the LGBT community.
In tangential issues, the Court refused a number of applications by Bain. The first two involved applications to strike out portions of Harris’ witness statement and to allow an additional witness statement filed by himself. In the other, the Court denied the request to extened the injunction preventing UWI from removing him as director of CHART.
The 3,657-acre plantation in Golden Vale, Portland, which Owen Kinlock left for his slaves in 1838 is now at the heart of a dispute in the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate’s Court.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley was moving to strike out a legal victory being claimed by the Attorney General in the email-gate controversy. The Attorney General entered a default judgement against the Opposition Leader when Rowley failed to file a defence in a defamation lawsuit against him.
Developments in the Profession
The Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) Friday announced the appointment of Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, a judge of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad, as a judge to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Justice Rajnauth-Lee replaces Desiree Bernard, the first woman to sit as a judge of the Court.
Retired Justice Roy Anderson has been appointed the interim Supervisor of Insolvency as the Government moves to implement the recently introduced Insolvency Act.
NEW Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry says her first order of business will be the West Kingston Commission of Inquiry, which is looking into circumstances that led to the death of more than 70 people during a May 2010 security operation to nab then strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
Debated Bills/ Legislation
Prominent attorney at law, Andrew Pilgrim expressed grave concern over the Evidence(Amendment) Bill 2014 which he argues would take away the fundamental right of an accused to remain silent.
The Barbados senate nevertheless passed the bill.
In Jamaica, former president of Women’s Inc, Joyce Hewitt lamented that promises of sexual harassment legislation which focuses on sexual harassment in the workplace have still not been fulfilled by Parliament and as a result women have continued to suffer for years. Justice Senator Mark Golding argued that there needs to be patience with the legislative process and that he was currently waiting on a draft bill on the area from Cabinet.
The Jamaica Manufactures Association expressed concerns about a clause in the Pubic Procurement Bill which would allow suppliers from CARICOM states to bid for public sector procurement contracts in the island as “national bidders”.
Antigua and Barbuda is expected to pass the Crown Prosecution Service Bill this year which is intended to reform the prosecution system by September. One important change is an end to police prosecuting cases in various magistrates courts.
Law and Society
Hundreds of Jamaicans stuck in love-less marriages are finding it difficult to move on with their lives as the court system is being bogged down by the high number of petitions for divorce.
Her Ladyship Justice Marlene Carter has expressed concern about defendants charged with serious crimes going to trial without legal counsel.
A number of lawyers in Antigua and Barbuda are concerned about the average age of jurors in criminal proceedings deciding the fate of accused persons.
Due to an increase in the number of sex crimes, the Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda announced that an upward shift in the age of consent and increased penalties for sex crimes were to be given consideration soon by the legislator.
In response, others have argued that the issue is wider than a legal one and should also be addressed from a societal perspective as well.
Having ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Jamaica is required to undergo standard examinations of its record on children’s rights which will take place on Monday 19th January and Tuesday 20th of January. These sessions will be streamed live online.
There is still little response from CARICOM on intellectual property laws and policy that will allow for the development of innovation and trade, both intraregionally and internationally, and one wonders whether this is the result of lack of informed policymakers or simply a collective phobia of international intellectual property law and policy. Either way, there must be an applicable cure and fast.